Friday, January 31, 2014

51: Principle and Process

The Project
I am on the (hopefully) final draft of ‘Project Program and Portfolio Management in easy steps’ and am just starting to send out the chapters for some peer review. I’ve re-worked chapter one about five times and think it’s about right but I’ll have to see what my peers think.

In chapter two I set out the baseline for project management so I can compare program and portfolio management to it. And yes I did start out by explaining the differences between project management and line (or process) management.  But for those who follow the Way everything is a process, including a project, so I did try to include that as well. 

The Way  
Taoists believe that all people have a natural reverence for the single principle and they therefore like processes which obey the single principle.  The principle and the process form a partnership which can take an infinite variety of forms and, as we all know in project management, no two projects are ever the same.  

Poor project managers try to force things to happen their way but they do not benefit from it and are therefore perceived to be poor project managers.  This partnership between principle and process is the first fact of life and forms the bedrock of our work as project managers.  

All things arise from the Tao.  
They are nourished by virtue.  
They are formed from matter.  
They are shaped by circumstances.  
Thus the ten thousand things respect Tao and value virtue.  

Respect of Tao and honor of virtue are not commanded,  
They happen naturally.  
Thus all things arise from Tao.  
By virtue they are nourished,  
Developed, cared for,  
Sheltered from harm.  
Creating without claiming ownership,  
Doing without taking credit,  
Guiding without interfering,  
This one might speak of as the primal virtue.  

Friday, January 24, 2014

50: A Matter of Life and Death

The Project
Just finished the second draft of “Project Program and Portfolio Management in easy steps” and it is currently being checked by my better half (who has an uncanny knack of spotting my punctuation mistakes). She is also checking that it is understandable to a non-technical business manager. Once that’s done I will be asking for some peer reviews from some technical colleagues. Am I worried?

Some people fear life, some fear death and some waver between them.  Lao Tzu tells us that each of these three groups represents thirty percent of people.  Applying this to project management we could say that fear of failure and apprehension about success, together with wavering between them causes tension.  This in turn causes people to make mistakes in critical situations, which can have fatal consequences for the project team.  

The Way  
The wise project manager represents the ten percent that have the wisdom to accept that these polarities are simple facts and so enjoys the dance of existence.  The wise project manager knows that everything comes and goes so there is no point in grasping for or clinging to things.  Why worry about what might or might not happen?

A ferocious dog will go for an excited or anxious person, while a conscious and centred person can walk past unharmed.  The wise project manager does not worry about success or failure and this freedom keeps him safe from harm.  

Between birth and death,  
Three in ten are followers of life,  
Three in ten are followers of death,  
Also three in ten are of a nature,  
Which actively leads to death.  

Why is this so?  
Because they live a substantial life.  
It is said that he who has a good grip on life,  
Meets no rhinoceros or tiger on his path.  
Rhinoceroses can find no place for their horns,  
Tigers no place for their claws,  

Why is this so?  
Because he has no place for death.  

Note: In terms of Tao death does not exist, it is just a transition from one state to another.

Friday, January 17, 2014

49: Being Open

The Project
A minor disaster happened last Saturday. I suddenly had a brilliant idea about how to re-work chapter 1, which I wasn’t happy with and went at it hammer and tongs. As always when I’m making substantial changes without any notes, I saved the file regularly. I had almost finished when my latest save produced an unrecoverable error in InDesign and the file was corrupted too. I had to open the corrupted file in a text editor and eventually found the bits of text but in a totally jumbled sequence with lots of control characters (a bit like HTML but without any structure). It took me all of Sunday to get it back together. It didn’t help that I took Saturday afternoon off to watch rugby only for Topsham (my local team) to get thrashed by South Moulton. Unfortunately when you’re working for yourself, you’ve no one to take it out on.

One of my old bosses once told me I should be tougher with people when they failed to deliver but it’s not my way.  Some project managers seem to think that being a leader means they have to impose their own value system on their team, but this only leads to resentment.  The wise project manager demonstrates leadership by being the servant of the team.  Being open and attentive to the needs of others is more effective than being judgmental.  

The Way  
The wise project manager expects the best of people and they live up to it.  The wise project manager may seem to be naive and childlike in this uncritical openness to whatever emerges.  But openness is more potent than any system of judgment ever devised.  

The sage has no fixed agenda.  
He is aware of the needs of others.  

I am good to people who are honest.  
I am also good to people who are dishonest.  
This is true goodness.  

I keep faith with people who are sincere.  
I also keep faith with people who are insincere.  
This is true faithfulness.  

The sage dwells in harmony,  
His agenda seems confused.  
To the sage all are as children.  

The term ‘children’ refers to children of the mother (Tao) meaning everyone.  To the sage the goodness of any of the children is the same as his own goodness.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

48: Unclutter Your Mind

The Project
Having finished the first draft of “Project Program and Portfolio Management in easy steps” it was back to the beginning again this week. I think I’ve got chapter one almost right except for the two pages about methodology, somehow it seems a bit heavy for the introduction. I think I’ll end up trying to make it a lot less heavy.

Project methodologies, tools and guidelines have their place in the scheme of things, but they are just aids to project management, not a solution.  I worked at a company in Jersey that sent every member of their IT department on a PRINCE2 course.  The net result was that every one of them thought they knew how to run a project, when all they really knew was PRINCE2.  The interesting thing is that they didn’t understand the difference.  

The Way  
The wise project manager understands the purpose of methodologies, tools and techniques and knows if and when to use them, but he allows them to fade into the background.  He is following a process of uncluttering his mind and simplifying his work.  As he relies less on knowing what he should do, his work becomes more powerful.  His consciousness is far more potent than any methodology.  By giving up trying to do the right thing, the project manager and the team will become far more fruitful.  

In the pursuit of learning,  
Every day something is added.  
In the practice of the Tao,  
Every day something is dropped.  

Less and less is done  
Until non-action is achieved.  
When nothing is done,  
Nothing remains undone.  

True mastery is gained,  
By letting things take their course,  
Not by interfering.  

Friday, January 03, 2014

47: Right Here, Right Now

The Project
I am onto the final chapter now, the action plan and road map for implementing Project, Program and Portfolio Management. It’s not quite into easy steps yet but that’s my next task. At the moment I think it is going OK but will wait for the peer reviews.

There are many ways of plotting or measuring how well a project is performing.  The Gantt chart is probably the one that most people are familiar with, it is simple and as they say, every picture tells a story.  Burndown charts are seen as a core element of agile project management.  My own preference is for a simple deliverable checklist (or function list) with the planned and actual completion dates.  But these tools only tell you what has already happened.  

The Way  
The poor project manager may use complex calculations and charts but will only confuse the team about what is actually happening.  The wise project manager is aware of what is happening on the project in the here and now.  By staying in the present and being aware of what is happening, the wise project manager can do less yet still achieve more.  

Without going outside,  
You may understand the order of things.  
Without looking through the window,  
You may see the way of things.  

To go far, is to know less.  
Thus the sage knows without going,  
Sees without looking,  
Accomplishes without motive.