Friday, December 27, 2013

46: No Win/No Lose

The Project
I finally managed to finish chapter 9, it’s been a struggle but like they say there is no gain without pain.

It’s good to have a happy project team as it tells you that things are going well.  But there will always be conflicts of opinion in the team, that’s only right and natural.  There is no point in the project manager trying to stamp these out, as they actually create energies which are creative forces.  Many times a spark of genius or a great idea will evolve from heated discussion about the different ways of doing something.  

But a poorly run project can look like a battlefield.  If the project manager loses sight of how things happen, differences of opinion will turn into quarrels which can begin to devastate the team.  This all comes down to the project manager’s attitude.  Wanting to be right will blind people to the real work of the project.  

The Way  
There should be no personal wins and no personal losses in project team work.  The wise project manager knows that it is important to be content with what is actually happening and not get worked up about what might or might not happen.  The only thing that matters is the team.  If the project manager nurtures the team they will be successful.  

When the Tao is in the universe,  
The horses haul manure.  
When the Tao is absent from the universe,  
War horses are kept near the city.  

There is no greater calamity than greed,  
No greater misfortune than avarice.  
So he who knows that enough is enough,  
Will always have enough.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

45: Appearing Foolish

The Project
I’m onto chapter nine (Managing a Portfolio) and it is quite hard work making it non repetitive and interesting but I continue to slog away at it. I’m trying to make it as simple as possible at the risk of appearing foolish!

Some project managers like to be seen as experts on everything and they are always ready to give their views on the right way to do something, regardless of how little they actually know about it.  

The Way  
The wise project manager tries to keep things simple and when he speaks it is often to say something obvious and it can sound simple.  Because what he says is also honest it may seem perplexing.  The project manager’s stillness may even appear to be foolishness.  But the project manager’s stillness overcomes the team’s agitation.  The project manager’s consciousness is his primary tool and this is what gets things done.  

Great perfection seems defective,  
Yet its function is not spoiled.
Great abundance seems agitated,  
Yet it cannot be exhausted.  

Great straightness seems crooked.  
Great dexterity seems clumsy.  
Great eloquence seems awkward.  
Purity and stillness set things in order in the universe.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

44: Owning or Owned

The Project
I'm into implementing portfolio management now (chapter eight) and it’s difficult not repeating stuff in implementing program management as there is so much overlap. But I’ll just get it all down on paper and then try and differentiate a bit. Sometimes I wonder why I do it but it’s like deciding to become a project manager, it seemed like a good idea at the time. There’s probably as many reasons for becoming a project manager as there are project managers. 

Good project managers do it because they enjoy managing projects and bringing change to their organizations.  Wise project managers also want to develop the people on their project teams to make them more effective and develop themselves so they become better people. However some project managers just do it in order to get ahead and earn more money.  

The Way  
The problem with owning a lot is that the more you have the more you have to look after.  The poor man doesn’t need to lock his door; the rich man has to live in a gated enclosure surrounded by security.  The more you have, the more you have to lose.  Is that owning things or being owned by them?  The wise project manager knows that giving up things will make him truly richer.  Be still and discover your inner security.  

Reputation or oneself, which matters more?  
Wealth or happiness, which is more valuable?  
Success or failure, which is worse?  
Great attachment will lead to great waste.  
Excessive hoarding will lead to heavy loss.  
A contented man avoids disgrace.  

Friday, December 06, 2013

43: Gentle Intervention

The Project
I have just finished chapter 6 (implementing program management) but had to go back and make a few changes to earlier chapters to keep everything consistent. Just starting on chapter 7 (managing a program) and I’ll end up having to make changes to chapter 6 so I don’t duplicate anything. There’s a nice symmetry to all this.

Many things can cause conflicts on a project: schedules, budgets, technical opinions and administrative procedures to name but a few.  The project manager has to deal with these conflicts to keep the project on track and I have known some project managers that take the approach of confronting problems head on.  

The Way  
The wise project manager takes a more gentle approach.  If there is a problem, he tries to identify the cause of the difficulty.  If someone is being difficult, the wise project manager is assertive about the issue but does not over-react.  He is gentle with them and explains what he wants to achieve.  But if that doesn’t work, he still does not over-react, he steps back and yields knowing that their resistance will relax.  The wise project manager realises how much how little can achieve.  

The softest thing in the universe,  
Overcomes the hardest.  
That which has no substance,  
Can penetrate where there is no space.  
I thus understand the value of being motiveless.  
Teaching without words.  

Friday, November 29, 2013

42: Creative Energy

I really needed some creative energy today as I’m going round in circles with chapter six (implementing program management) and can’t figure out how to phrase things. Gave up and went down to The Bridge Inn for a pint of Yellowhammer before lunch and the problem is diminished – I’m taking the afternoon off and forgetting about it!

Creativity in projects often comes from the interaction between opposites.  If everyone on the project is in total harmony and agreement things will be very peaceful but there will be no spark.  Getting the team round a table and discussing an issue or a challenge can often lead to sparks flying but that can prove to be a very creative process.  

A poor project manager will try to force others to do what they want and will ultimately be undone by it.  The wise project manager acts in a facilitation role rather than trying to drive the team.  

The Way  
In order to lead the wise project manager learns how to follow.  In order to prosper the wise project manager learns to run the project simply.  The natural balance of nature and of the team will ensure the right outcome.  Follow others, live simply and encourage the creativity of the team.  

Men dislike that which is helpless, insignificant or bad,  
But this is how kings and lords describe themselves.  
When things diminish, they will increase.  
When things increase, they will diminish.  
What the ancients taught, I will also teach.  
That which is strong has no control over its death.  
This will be the basis of my teaching.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

41: Disturbing Wisdom

The Project
Nearly finished chapter 4 (Portfolio Management) but I’m struggling to create a yin and yang graphic to illustrate the portfolio life cycle. I’ve created the basic shape with one large and two small circles and made the two small circles black and white but I can’t work out how to make the other two segments black and white. If anyone out there knows how to create a smooth curved vector or how to flood fill a segment of two overlapping objects in InDesign please help!

Things happen on a project and it is important that the project manager finds out how and why. The wise project manager finds out and acts accordingly.  The poor project manager, even if they do manage to find out, dismisses it as nonsense.  The poor project manager thinks kindness is weakness and selflessness is not the way to get ahead.  

The Way  
People who do not see how things happen are sceptical about the wise project manager’s behaviour.  Because his motives are obscure he is hard to figure out.  It is not easy to understand a person whose foundation is invisible.  But this is the way things happen.  

The best scholar hears of the Tao,  
And practices it diligently.  
The average scholar hears of the Tao,  
And sometimes practices it and sometimes not.  
The foolish scholar hears of the Tao,  
And ridicules it.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

40: Meditation

The Project
I've now received the new templates from the publishers and started typesetting the first couple of chapters of "Project Program and Portfolio Management in easy steps". The new layout looks good. It's due for publication next March so I've plenty of time but it's a big subject to cover in easy steps. Working largely on my own these days I sometimes forget about taking a break when I'm in the middle of a interesting topic but I usually find a little time for meditation at least once a day.

Meditation requires peace and quiet but in the hurly-burly of project life there are very few moments like that.  We do need these moments of tranquility to slow down, take stock and re-charge our batteries.  But how does a project manager use them?  

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.  

The Way  
The wise project manager uses the time to meditate calmly, returning to his inner self and becoming silent.  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.  

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, November 08, 2013

39: The Root of Things

Project Program and Portfolio Management
I am well into writing chapter six now (Implementing Program Management) and it is all starting to fall into place quite nicely. It’s interesting how much the Capability Maturity Model features (something I spent a lot of time promoting back in my working days) and how critical having at the very least a well-established Project Office in place before moving into Program Management. It really is the root of project, program and portfolio management maturity.

Sometimes when things start to get difficult on a project it is tempting to abandon the way.  But 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.  

The Way  
Success comes through cooperation and providing a service to others.  The wise project manager nurtures the team, cooperates with them and is their servant, this is true leadership.  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.  

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.  
Do not wish to be shiny like jade,  
Be dull like a rock.  

Friday, November 01, 2013

38: Virtuous Leadership

The Project
I’ve got the material for the first four chapters of “Project Program and Portfolio Management in easy steps” ready now: Introduction plus one chapter on each of Projects, Programs and Portfolios. I’ve roughly worked out what the remaining chapters will be about but they will probably change a bit as I work through them. I’ve sent the publishers a synopsis so hopefully they will get some positive feedback from their main customers.

Back in the days when I used to run project management courses, I used an exercise to get the delegates to describe the characteristics of the most effective and ineffective managers they had ever known.  I would write their positive and negative characteristics on two flip charts and some of the negative flip charts we produced were hilarious if not scurrilous.  

The Way  
Poor project managers may try to behave in what they think is the ‘right way’ for a project manager to behave.  They act busy but never seem to achieve anything.  The wise project manager is aware of what is happening in the team and acts accordingly.  He doesn’t try to do anything, he just does the right thing.  

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.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

37: Doing Little

The Project
I am now well into the new book “Project Program and Portfolio Management in easy steps”. I’ve got the material together for the introduction and the first three chapters. Still a lot more to get together before I can start turning it into easy steps. It’s been quite a hard week so I smiled when I saw my topic for today.

Many years ago I coined the phrase “constructive laziness” to describe my approach to work, which some people find difficult to understand.  I don’t always take the easiest option but I do take the option that will require the least effort in the long run.  So it sometimes appears to people that I do very little.  They are of course absolutely right; I do as little as possible.  

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 centered creates order and when there is order, there is little to do.  

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.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

PMI Netherlands Summit 2014

Inspiring Project, Program and Portfolio Management
The thin line between project failure and project success

I have  again been invited to join the PMI Netherlands Summit in June 2014 as part of their blogging team and hope that I can make it this year. I was particularly pleased to see that the theme is “Inspiring Project, Program and Portfolio Management” as I have just started work on a new book “Project Program and Portfolio Management in easy steps” for my usual publishers. 

PMI have issued a call for papers, so if you are interested check out the details on their web site (see below) and submit your paper before November 11th 2013.

Not interested in presenting, but interested in visiting the Summit on June 12th 2014, then take advantage of their Early Bird Discount. See the web site at: 

And I hope to see you there.

Friday, October 11, 2013

36: Subtle Insight

Just heard from my publisher at the Frankfurt Book Fair, there does seem to be sufficient interest in Project Program and Portfolio Management (P3M) so that’s my next project up and running again.

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  
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 quiet project manager will be successful.

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

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

“The Way of the Project Manager”  by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, October 04, 2013

35: Keep It Simple

Last week I took part in a mass Flash blog where 70 project management bloggers simultaneously blogged on “What Project Management Means to Me”. Some of the blogs were pretty good and if you want to take a look at them there is a link at the end of my previous blog.

As a project manager I always tried to keep things simple.  Yes I had a detailed project schedule for myself but I create a simplified high-level version for the project stakeholders and extract detailed deliverables lists (features lists in agile projects) for the project team to work from.  Keeping things simple means they are easy to follow. 

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 and, when the project ends, the team are in good spirits and say “we did it”.  

Hold the great image,  
All under heaven will come.  
They come without harm,  
In happiness and peace.  

Trying to describe the Tao, insipid!  
Look, it cannot be seen.  
Listen, it cannot be heard.  
Use cannot exhaust it.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What does project management mean to me?

What does project management mean to me?

Over the years I have thought more and more about this question.  I don’t know if I have a definitive answer yet but I am moving closer to it with each week’s blog.

Many years ago, when I was first made a project manager, I had absolutely no idea how to go about it.  The fact that I had previously worked for some poor project managers had taught me a few things I should not do, such as alienating the team members and trying to do everything myself.  There wasn’t much around by way of training courses back then and we were expected to learn as we went along.  So I did my best and naturally made quite a few mistakes, but on the whole more things worked out right than wrong.  Maybe I was just lucky. 

With advancing years and experience I have realized that good project managers have a basic understanding of how things work. When I say things, I mean everything, people and processes included. But while much has been written on the ‘what’ of project management, from the lofty heights of PRINCE2 and the PM-BOK to my own humble efforts in “Effective Project Management in easy steps” and “Agile Project Management in easy steps”, little has been written on the how of project management. For this reason I first started this blog about five years ago to try and record how things happened on my and other people’s projects and in life generally. 

Because of an interest in Taoist philosophy, I decided to look at how a wise project manager goes about ensuring the success of a project.  From this I soon found that what mattered to me was the soft (or people) skills of project management together with an understanding of how things happen.  From my own experience of running training courses I realized that the way cannot be taught, it can only be understood or known.  So the blog and the book I published based on it “The Way of the Project Manager” is based on my observations of how things have happened in real projects and in life, set against the background of the thoughts and advice of Lao Tzu. 

So to return to the question of what project management mean to me, it means wise project management.  The wise project manager starts with no expectations and observes how things unfold.  He concentrates on the deliverables and not the tasks of producing them.  He is aware of processes but not driven by them.  He concentrates on the team having what they need to produce their deliverables and protects them from outside interference.  He is a facilitator and does not interfere because he trusts the team. 

The wise project manager does not try and take credit, he gives credit to the team.  He put the good of the team ahead of his own good.  Like water flowing, he takes the path of least resistance.  He stays aware of what is happening on the project by being silent and listening.  He stays calm by being centered and grounded. 

The wise project manager ensures the success of his projects by listening to all the project stakeholders.  He concentrates on the here and now, not what has happened in the past, or what might happen in the future.  He is considerate, courteous and knows how to yield gracefully and is therefore enlightened.  If he has problems he tries softer not harder. 

The wise project manager appears to do little, yet achieves much.  He always stays flexible.  He shares his knowledge and understanding with the team, thus making the team stronger.  He is simple, humble and does not pretend to know things he doesn’t.   He has no hidden motives and always tries to keep things simple. 

Finally the wise project manager does not try to claim success, he encourages others to be successful and takes pleasure in their success.  He expects the best of people and is usually rewarded for it.  Finally in my own words, but expressed in the style of Lao Tzu:

The Way is not complex. 
Follow the simplest path for it is The Way. 
Be open with your team and they will be open with you. 
Be one with the universe and the universe will be one with you. 
The wise project manager is humble, he knows the team does the work. 
He respects and acknowledges the team and they in turn respect and acknowledge him. 
The poor project manager seeks fame, the wise project manager seeks inner peace. 
With fame come problems, with inner peace comes understanding. 
The poor project manager worries about what to do next. 
The wise project manager relishes not doing, when nothing needs to be done. 
Do little, for this is the way of the project manager. 

John Carroll
Mallorca, Spain

P.S. This post is published as part of a first ever project management
related global blogging initiative to publish a post on a common theme at
exactly the same time. Seventy four (74!) bloggers from Australia, Canada,
Colombia, Denmark, France, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal,
Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UK and the USA have committed to make a
blogging contribution and the fruit of their labour is now (literally NOW)
available all over the web. The complete list of all participating blogs is
found here <>  so please go
and check them out!

Friday, September 13, 2013

34: The Single Principle

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 very much in line with the single principle.  

The Way  
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.  

The great Tao flows everywhere,  
Both to the left and to the right.  
The ten thousand things rely upon it,  
But it allows them to act freely.  
It achieves its work, but takes no credit.  

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.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, September 06, 2013

33: Enlightenment

Project 2013
Good news this week, Project 2013 in easy steps has now been published.  Time to move on to the next two projects: Project Program and Portfolio Management and Sourdough Bread Making.  I’ve also been contacted about and agreed to join a mass blog on Sep-25 on ‘What does project management mean to me’ so that’s something to look forward to.

Traditional thinking about project resources has tended to focus on human resources, the members of the project team, which of course includes the project manager himself.  But this topic is about the project manager’s inner resources, which is about enlightenment.   Understanding how other people behave takes intelligence, but to know ourselves takes enlightenment.  

The Way  
The poor project manager tries to use force to get the other team members to do what he wants.  The wise project manager is content with what he has.  He can live simply and enjoy prosperity and free time.  When our goals are clear, we can achieve them without fuss.  

He who understands others is wise,  
He who understands himself is enlightened.  
He who masters others has strength,  
He who masters himself is strong.  

He who stays where he is endures.  
He who dies but is not forgotten,  
Is long lived.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, August 30, 2013

32: Rules and Regulations

Poor project managers like to go in for fancy theories, which can end up distracting the team and sapping their energy.  When rules and regulations are applied to the team it can breed dissatisfaction.  

On the other hand, where there are no fancy theories or prejudices to distract the team, there will be harmony.  Where the work of the team is grounded in an obvious and natural righteousness, there will be no need for rules and regulations.  

The Way  
The way cannot be defined, it just is.  It is the single principle responsible for every event or thing.  The wise project manager returns to an awareness of what is happening and the single principle that lies behind it.  From this the wise project manager will learn how things happen and as a consequence the team will trust him.  

The Tao is eternally nameless.  
Its simplicity, although imperceptible, cannot be grasped.  
If kings could grasp it,  
The ten thousand things would follow them.  
Heaven and earth cause sweet dew to fall,  
Not just on the worthy but on all alike.  
Men will not need to force it,  
All things would take their course.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, August 23, 2013

31: Intervention

Some years ago on a sailing holiday my wife told me that no woman like’s asking a man how to do something as the result will be like “having the tiller snatched out of your hand”.  This seems to be as true of project management as of sailing.  

When a poor project manager interferes in the work of the team, the team members will feel their work is not valued.  The team will be weakened and the team members will become less open, more defensive and resentful.  

The Way  
The wise project manager does not interfere.  He knows that a special awareness is called for if intervention does become necessary.  Delicate facilitation is the way of the project manager.  

Weapons are tools of misfortune,  
They are not the wise man’s tools.  
He uses them only when necessary,  
With calm and detachment.  

Victorious but without glory.  
Those who glorify, 
Are delighted in the killing.  
Those who delight in killing,  
Cannot achieve their ambitions in the world.  

We say that war is conducted like a funeral.  
Those who have been killed,  
Should be mourned in sorrow.  
Victory in war is a time for mourning.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, August 16, 2013

30: Using Force

Some project managers just have to interfere in their team members’ work.  It might be due to insecurity or a lack of trust in their team members.  The result is that the team members will start to react against it. If the project manager then tries to use force, conflicts and arguments will follow and the project team will begin to disintegrate.  

The Way  
The wise project manager understands the way, does not interfere and uses as little force as possible.  He guides the team without pressurising people and without fighting to have things done his way.  He has a light touch and neither defends nor attacks.  By leading selflessly and harmoniously he will grow and endure.  

Achieve results, not the victor’s laurels.  
Achieve results, but not through aggression.  
Achieve results and not arrogance.  
Achieve results, but not through acquisition.  
Achieve results, but not through violence.  

Force is followed by loss of strength.  
This is not the way of the Tao.  
That which goes against the Tao soon ends.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Monday, August 12, 2013

29: The Paradox of Trying

If the 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 centered and grounded and encourages the team to function well by assisting them and dealing with any issues they may have.  He is there to support the team and encourage them, not to interfere.  

He who would take over the world and change it,  
Will not succeed.  
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 are strong, some are sick.   
Some bully, some destroy.  
Therefore the sage dismisses,  
The excessive and the extravagant.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, August 02, 2013

28: Protect the Feminine

During the middle to late stages of a project there are often battles to be fought and problems to be resolved and team members to be encouraged.  

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.  This mixture of doing and being can be very productive.  

The Way  
The third aspect of leadership is the way.  From time to time the project manager needs to withdraw from the team and return to silence.  Be there, do it and then withdraw to replenish the spirit.  Knowing when to act, when to listen and when to withdraw is the way of the project manager.  

Know the strength of man,  
But protect the feminine.  
Be as a mountain stream to the world.  
As a mountain stream in the world,  
The eternal virtue abides.  

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.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

27: How Things Happen

The poor project manager knows that he needs members of the team to carry out the work on the project but he fails to recognize that he also need to serve these people.  If there is no mutual need and mutual respect he is missing the whole point and will not see how things happen on the project.  

The Way  
The wise project manager has an awareness of everything that needs taking care of; 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.  

A good walker leaves no footprints.  
Good speech is free of flaw and fault.  
Good calculation needs no tally or writing.  
A good door needs no lock,  
Yet it cannot be opened.  
Good binding requires no knots,  
Yet cannot be untied.  
Therefore the sage takes care of others,  
And does not abandon them.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, July 19, 2013

26: Centered & Grounded

Being centered and grounded allows the project manager to work with erratic people and deal with critical situations without harm or fear.  The poor project manager is not stable and can easily be carried away by the intensity of leadership.  He can easily be distracted by what is happening around him.  He 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.

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.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, July 12, 2013

25: What is the Way?

Things have gone a bit quiet at the publishers. I sent them back the marked up proofs and they uploaded the revised book over a week ago and so far I've heard nothing. I assume from past experience that this is good news and I'll suddenly get my sample copies in the post, on the other hand who knows. Oh well it's all part of the way.

The Way
Describing the way is not easy as it sounds. The way 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 poor project manager has no knowledge of the way.  The wise project manager knows that he is dependent on the earth.  The earth in turn is dependent on the universe.  And finally the universe is dependent on the way.  These are the four great powers of the universe.  

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.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, July 05, 2013

24: Trying Softer

It is amazing how a couple of days of sunshine can cheer everyone up.  Being that this is England it probably won't last but let's make the most of it while it does and take it easy.

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 harder gets you nowhere.  He knows that selfishness obscures his deeper self and blinds him to how things happen.  Therefore he avoids all these things.  He does his work and lets it go.  

Standing on tiptoe is not steady.  
To straddle is not to go forward.  
Being self-centred is not enlightened.  
Boasting is not being grown-up.  
The followers of the Tao avoid them.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, June 28, 2013

23: Trusting

The poor project manager tries to impress his team and project stakeholders by talking about what he is doing and how well he is doing it, but it carries little weight.  Being dramatic or egocentric neither does any good nor looks good.  

The Way  
When we follow 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.  Reflect and be still, for this is the way of the project manager.  

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.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, June 21, 2013

22: The Paradox of Letting Go

Last week was an absolute panic, but I finally got through the (hopefully) final corrections to the book and “Project 2013 in easy steps” should soon be on the bookshelves. By contrast this week has been strangely quiet. I’ve started researching the next proposed title: “Project, Program and Portfolio Management” although I’m not sure about the comma yet. It’s a big subject and to date there isn’t anything competitive but it’s never going to be a big seller.  

The Way
I previously mentioned one of my ski coaches telling me to try softer not harder and how it worked.  It seems the same with project management, when we try too hard we seem to achieve nothing.  Yet when we stop trying, things fall into place all by themselves.  

The poor project manager tries to impress the team and his superiors, but they will see right through him.  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 the objectives.  An empty space allows itself to be filled.  

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.  

This blog is based on “The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, June 14, 2013

21: The Nature of the Way

The Project
What a week! The publishers dropped the manuscript for Project 2013 in easy steps back to me with a whole bunch of inconsistent capitalization issues. They seem to have crept in over the last couple of releases and I had a few days to sort it all out. Chaos would be an understatement! 

On another tack an old mate of mine, Sean Connolly, hit the three score and ten this week. He probably doesn't ever look at this blog so I can say it without fear of retribution. Trouble is in six months I catch up with him. Ah well back to the Way…

The Way
Poor project managers jump every time someone yells.  The wise project manager 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.  

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.  

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 obscure, so wild,  
But within it there is matter.  
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.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, June 07, 2013

20: Traditional Wisdom

When the going gets tough a poor project manager will often rely on theoretical models and processes, but these are only tools and templates.  Traditional wisdom is based on common sense and experience.

The Way  
When problems occur, the wise project manager responds to what is happening in the here and now.  He is happy with little and serves 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.  

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?  

Everyone else has a purpose,  
But I am ignorant as a rustic.  
I alone am different,  
I am nourished by the great mother.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, May 31, 2013

19: Self Improvement

No book or teacher can make you a better project manager.  There are no rules or techniques that can develop these qualities.  You need to discover things for yourself.  

The Way  
A poor project manager may go on lots of courses but this will only make him a sadder person while making the people selling the courses richer.  The wise project manager develops and improves through practicing silence and meditation.  These will gradually reveal his true self.  

Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom,  
And it will be a hundred times better for everyone.  
Give up kindness, renounce morality,  
And the people will go back to filial piety and compassion.  
Give up cunning, renounce profit,  
And robbers and thieves will disappear.  
If these three are not sufficient in themselves,  
Consider natural simplicity,
Cherish nature’s work,
And let things take their course.

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, May 24, 2013

18: Staying Calm

After some initial problems with DropBox, I finally managed to get Project 2013 in easy steps uploaded on Saturday and took off for a few days at Rye. Lovely spot, shame about the weather but we did manage to get a few nice walks in.

The Way  
The way represents the single principle of how everything works.  When we keep it simple and follow the path there will be harmony in the team and people get on with the project.  When we leave the way, the team will start to argue begin to lose their motivation.  The wise project manager recognizes what is happening and returns to first principles.  He needs to calm the team, reassure them and bring them back to the way.  

When the great Tao is neglected,  
Humanity and righteousness arise.  
When wisdom and knowledge appear,  
They beget great falseness.  
When there is no peace within the family,  
Filial piety and maternal love arise.  
When the country is confused and in chaos,  
Patriotism is born.  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, May 17, 2013

17: Facilitation

Project 2013 in easy steps is now ready to upload. I'm just waiting for the publishers to set up an account in DropBox for me to upload it to.  

The Way
Lao Tzu tells us that there are four types of leaders and that equates to project managers:  

The worst are the weak, ineffectual ones that have been promoted to their level of incompetence.  

Next are those that are feared and who get their way by threatening and browbeating their team.  

Then we come to the charismatic leaders, who lead from the front and are popular, but they are not wise project managers, for the team will be too reliant on them.  

The wise project manager is barely noticed.  He does not intervene unless it is absolutely necessary and allows the team to run itself.  He trusts in his team and they, in turn, trust in him.  Greatness does not come to those who go looking for it, it comes out of humility, for this is the way of the project manager.  

When the best ruler governs,  
The people are barely aware he exists.  
The next best is a leader which they know and love.  
Then one who is feared.  
The worst is one who is despised.  

If the ruler does not trust the people,  
There will be no trust in him.  
The best ruler doesn’t talk, he acts.  
When his work is done,  
The people say “We did it!”  

“The Way of the Project Manager” by John Carroll (ISBN 978-1481076111), is published by CreateSpace and available from Amazon in hard copy and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, May 10, 2013

PMI Netherlands Summit

I'm pleased to see that the PMI Netherlands Summit now features a page on the "Exclusive Blog Team", which includes yours truly. I'm really looking forward to it. These are thye main topics:

Team learning in projects: why some project teams learn new insights and apply them while others don’t sounds particularly interesting to me. 

Project strategy rooted in dynamic capabilities: a discussion on how project strategy can enable your organization to be adaptable. 

Learning from outside the box: learning from experiences (another of my hot topics) from outside of your own mindset. What will work for you? "Listen and shiver" sounds fun.

Co-creating recipes for successful Project Management: a workshop based on the theory of single, double and triple loop learning.

Learning on the fly: how project managers can access lessons learned on the fly, at the right moment and addressing a specific issue. 

Community Sources Learning adds Value: How can an organization capture and apply knowledge which are of strategic importance for the organization?

Constructing Your Parachute On The Way Down: (I particularly like the sound of this one!) Overcoming Organizational Gravity For Smarties.

Be inspired by Lynn Crawford and Terry Cooke-Davies: your opportunity to align with international thought leaders on project management competences. 

Project Management and the human factor: little attention has been paid until now to the art of undermining  and manipulating projects. But each project has its opponents; the dominant motive is survival.

Program, Governance and its flip side: the relevance of Program and Portfolio Governance in organizations and an updated Agile Governance approach.

Retrospectives: your lessons learned on steroids to help your team/project in continuous improvement.

How agile projects measure up, what this means to you: how organizations can measure their own projects, agile or not, and how to communicate results to decision makers who face investment decisions.

The Afsluitdijk: the world-famous Enclosure dam doesn’t meet present safety standards and needs a makeover. Joost van de Beek (project manager) will share the critical points to success.

Intervision and coaching: a workshop approach to experience learning via interaction and dialogue. Learn by sharing experiences and by exposing your worries and insecurities. Open up and grow. 

Full details at: