Friday, October 13, 2017

No Win/No Lose

Great excitement at the club this week as they will be filming next week's Rugby Tonight (BT Sport) at our very own Topsham Rugby Football Club. It will undoubtedly be chaos but I'll hopefully be able to get a plug in for walking rugby. Meanwhile we are working on three project proposals for improvements to the grounds and clubhouse, which nicely brings me on to:

Project Management
While it’s good to have a happy project team as it tells you that things are going well, there will always be some conflicts of opinion in the team, and 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. Often a spark of genius or a great idea will evolve from heated discussion about the different ways of doing something.  

However a poorly run project can look more 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. Trying to score points will not shed light on what is happening on the project. 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.  

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

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, August 18, 2017

Appearing Foolish

At last the end is in sight! The end of the cricket season that is and the start of rugby. We can't put the posts up yet but we are running our men's trials this evening with a BBQ to follow. Plus we've a pre-season friendly down at Sidmouth on Tuesday evening. Just enough to whet the appetite. Roll on September. Meanwhile the walking rugby goes from strength to strength and I've started registering the players ready for the new season.

Project Management
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. Some also like to appear busy and never have any time to deal with the little niceties of life. But they do always seem to have enough time to check up on the team members and interfere with what they are doing.  

The wise project manager tries to keep things simple and may often appear to do be doing little. This lack of needless intervention allows the team to develop and be productive and effective. But it can sometimes appear that the project manager is sitting there with no idea of what to do, which can be disconcerting for a team member who is used to project managers behaving more dynamically.  

The Way  
When the wise project manager 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.  

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

Great perfection seems defective,  
Great straightness seems crooked.  
Great dexterity seems clumsy.  
Great eloquence seems awkward.  
Movement conquers cold.  
Stillness conquers heat.  
Purity and stillness set things in order in the universe.  

Friday, August 04, 2017

Owning or Owned

Sorry I haven't posted for a couple of weeks but my Fridays (posting day) have been very tied up. On the walking rugby front there was a meeting of the clubs who have got walking rugby going up at Bristol Rugby, which was very encouraging. Our numbers are steadily growing at Topsham and one of the Devon RFC committee is coming to join us next week. Meanwhile pre-season training has started for the men's and women's squads and we have a couple of pre-season friendlies to look forward to. While on the admin side we are just about finishing off the budgeting process for 2017-18.

Project Management
I was talking to a couple of people the other evening about how people get into project management. Some chose to work as project managers as they are interested in it, some choose it as a career choice, while others have it thrust upon them. I think I fell into the latter category, although I grew to love it.

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 and their organizations to make them more effective. They also want to develop themselves so that they become better people.  

However some project managers just do it in order to get ahead and earn more money. They don’t care about the people who are working on the project or those who will be impacted by it, just as how they are perceived by the senior people in the organization.  

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, so be still and discover your inner security.   

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

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.  
Knowing when to stop avoids danger.  
So acting one can last a long time.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Gentle Intervention

The Project
Finally completed Earned Value Management in easy steps, thanks to lots of good feedback from David M, Graham M and David C-C. The publishers are now reviewing it, so far no queries or questions, so fingers crossed. Meanwhile onto the next project, updating Sourdough Bread Made Easy, I've lots of new material to add in and quite a few bits to update.

Many things can cause conflicts on a project: tight schedules, tight budgets, other peoples’ priorities, human resources (or the lack of them), technical opinions, interpersonal conflicts and administrative procedures to name but a few. The project manager has to deal with these conflicts to keep the project on track. I have known some project managers that take the approach of confronting things head on and insisting on things being done their way but that is not the way.

The Way  
The wise project manager takes a gentle approach to things. If there is a problem, he tries to identify the cause of the difficulty, first making sure it is not something he has or has not done. 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. He explains why it matters and trusts in his consciousness shedding light on the issue. But if that doesn’t work, he still does not over-react, for that is not the way. 

Instead the wise project manager steps back and yields knowing that their resistance will relax. The wise project manager understands how much, how little can achieve. 

The Tao
Lao Tzu tells us:

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.  
Actions without motive,  
Are rarely attained in the world.  

Friday, July 07, 2017

Creative Energy

We had our AGM at the rugby club this week. Good turnout (probably because we opened the bar and had free food) and there was a good bit of lively discussion.

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.  

The Way 
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. In some ways a wise project manager is more of a follower than a leader. His role is to foster and encourage the creativity of the team members. 

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, this is the Way.  

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us: 

Tao begot the one.  
The one begot the two.  
The two begot the three.  
And the three begot the ten thousand things.  

The ten thousand things depend on the female,  
And embrace the male.  
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.  
That which is strong has no control over its death.  
This will be the basis of my teaching.  

Friday, June 30, 2017

Disturbing Wisdom

Someone wise once said "expect the unexpected" and it has often been repeated. It is true of life in general but it does seem to be particularly relevant in project management. But no matter how much we try and expect the unexpected, unexpected things will 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 skeptical about the wise project manager’s behavior. 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 Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:

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.  

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.  

Friday, April 28, 2017


Traditional thinking about project resources has centered on human resources, the members of the project team, including the project manager himself. But this post is focused on the project manager’s inner resources, which is about enlightenment.  

Understanding how other people behave takes intelligence, but to know ourselves takes enlightenment. The poor project manager tries to use force to get the other team members to do what he wants. But to manage ourselves takes true power.  

The Way  
The wise project manager is content with what he has. He can live simply and enjoy prosperity and free time. If our goals are clear, we can achieve them without fuss.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

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

To recognize enough is to be rich.  
He who acts forcefully has ambition.  
He who stays where he is endures.  
He who dies but is not forgotten, is long lived. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Rules and Regulations

Poor project managers go in for fancy theories, which end up distracting the team from what is happening and saps their energy. Where rules and regulations are applied to the work of the team it breeds dissatisfaction. The project team will start to split into fractions and infighting will start to develop between them. The wise project manager must know when to stop.  

On the other hand, where there are no fancy theories or prejudices to split the team into fractions, 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 has regard for this principle and as a consequence the team will trust him.  

The wise project manager returns to an awareness of what is happening and the single principle that lies behind it. Focusing on this single principle is the most potent aspect of leadership. From this the wise project manager will learn how things happen 

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

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.  

Once the whole is divided, the parts need names.  
There are already enough names,  
One must know when to stop.  
Knowing when to stop, thus avoiding danger.  

The existence of Tao in the world,  
Is like a river flowing home to the sea.  

Friday, April 14, 2017


It's good to see that (son) David's book: Scrum is easy steps is now out on Kindle, print version to follow shortly. He managed to get it written while finishing off his MBA and working full time as a Business Analyst/Scrum Consultant, no mean feat.

Meanwhile I plod on with EVA in easy steps, I reckon I'm about half way with the text but still lots of graphics to do. I'll probably take a break from it this (long) weekend and watch a bit of rugby. 

This weeks subject is intervention and that's a characteristic of a poor project manager. They interfere in the work of the team and insist on things being done their way. The team members begin to feel their work is not valued and the team will be weakened. What may, at the time feel like a victory to the project manager, is actually a failure. Team members who have been bruised in this way will become less open, more defencive 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. Facilitation is the way of the project manager.  

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

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.  

Friday, April 07, 2017


The Project
I'm getting into the heart of the matter now for Earned Value Management in easy steps and realising that it does have some good points after all. When I had to use it (as the client insisted on it) I just thought of it as an unnecessary overhead. I've set myself a challenge to add a chapter on Agile EVM, which should be really interesting as it's almost an oxymoron!

I'm not getting to spend as much time on it as I would like at the moment as I've a lot to do on the day job. It's the end of the club's financial year and on top of everything else I need to get the gift aid claim in but it means an awful lot of typing. The good news is that a couple of new volunteers have stepped up and they are able to take on some of the stuff I've had to do up until now. As ever I need to let them get on with things but be there if they get stuck and need any help or encouragement, which brings me nicely onto today's topic.

Not Interfering
Some project managers just have to interfere in their team members’ work. It might be due to their own insecurity or a lack of trust in their team members. Maybe they are selfish, think they know best or just want to take the credit for everything. 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. The project team will begin to disintegrate and the climate will become hostile.  

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

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

When you use the Tao to advise a ruler,  
Military force is not the right way to rule.  
This will tend to cause resistance.  
Goodness will bear fruit enough.  

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.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Paradox of Trying

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

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

He who would take over the world and change it,  
Will not succeed.  
The world is sacred,  
It cannot be done.  

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 snort, some praise.  

Some are strong, some are sick.   
Some bully, some destroy.  
Therefore the sage dismisses,  
The excessive and the extravagant.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Setting an Example

The Project
I've just had the go ahead from the publisher to start work on "Earned Value Management in easy steps" and I've given myself a three month deadline, so here we go again! Apologies to everyone I told I had retired, but I couldn't resist it. 

I've mapped out the chapters and topics and started on the text but there is going to be a lot of work to get the charts and other illustrations right. I might try generating them from MS-Project but it might be easier to hand build the in Adobe InDesign (the editing tool we use).

Even though I'm right at the start of the project I find that today's post is about the middle to late stages of a project, when there are often battles to be fought by the project manager. At the same time there will also issues and problems to be resolved and some team members may need help and encouragement.  

The Way  
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. 

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us to:  

Know the strength of man,  
But protect the feminine.  
Be as an example to the world.  

Know the honour, protect humility.  
Be as a valley in the world.  
As a valley in the world,  
The eternal virtue shall be sufficient.  

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.  

Friday, March 17, 2017


Happy St Patrick's Day to all those with Irish blood/Guinness flowing in their veins (I think I count under both qualifications) and good luck to Ireland in Dublin tomorrow when they attempt to spoil England's party. If they can beat the All Blacks in New York they can surely beat England in Dublin, especially with Jack Nowell left on the bench! Meanwhile Topsham RFC still face an uphill struggle to avoid relegation but if they can match last week's performance they could still do it. So that's the important stuff out of the way, and talking of the Way this weeks subject is subtlety

The Way  
Poor project managers knows that they need members of the team to carry out the work on the project, but they fail to recognise that they also need to serve these people. If there is no mutual need and mutual respect they are missing the point and will not see how things happen on the project.  

The wise project manager has an awareness of everything that needs taking care of on the project; 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, and this he does willingly.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

A good walker leaves no footprints.  
Good speech is free of flaw and fault.  
Good calculation needs no tally or writing.  
Therefore the sage takes care of others,  
And does not abandon them.  
This one might call enlightenment.  

The good man provides a model for the bad man.  
The bad man a student for the good man.  
No matter how clever one is,  
If the teacher is not respected,  
Or the student not cared for,  
There is a great potential for error.  
This might be called an important subtlety.  

Friday, March 10, 2017

Staying Centered

There is a lot going on around me at the moment (I won't call it turmoil but it's sometimes a bit close to it :-) and it is all to easy to get distracted and carried away. So it is essential to stay centered and grounded. Being centered means we can keep our balance both physically and mentally. One of the things I remember from one of the more vigorous forms of the martial arts I once studied was the stance of the Ox.  Feet firmly planted on the ground, fists clenched by ones side, rock solid, totally grounded and ready for anything. I wouldn't recommend this in a project team meeting but the mental equivalent could work. The project manager who is centered and grounded can work with erratic people and critical situations without harm or fear.  

On the other hand a poor project manager will not be stable and can easily be carried away by the intensity of leadership. He will easily get distracted by what is happening around him, 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.

The Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

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.  

Friday, March 03, 2017

Back to the Way

Just got home after a three week holiday in Auckland and the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Great country, great to spend some time with son David and his wife Anneke, and great to see the Auckland Blues (after a terrible season last year according to David) win the first game of the new season with an outstanding seven-try 56-18 victory over the Rebels in Melbourne. Meanwhile at home Topsham continued their battle for survival with a 36-28 win over Cornish Pirates Amateurs and Exeter Chiefs sit second in the Premiership after a draw with Wasps and wins over Worcester and Newcastle, but enough about rugby.

Earned Value Management
My publishers have been in touch to see if I could do a book on EVM so in the quiet moments away I've put together an outline synopsis for it. We will probably go for publishing it as a short e-book in the first instance as no-one is sure how big the market is for it. Then maybe expand it into a full book or shrink it into a chapter in the next revision of Effective Project Management in easy steps. Just when I thought things were getting quiet but then that is the Way.

The Way
Describing the Way is not easy as it 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 Tao  
Lao Tzu tells us:  

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.  
Trying to find a name for it,  
Invokes thoughts of greatness.  
Being great, it flows.  
Flowing it moves far away.  
Having gone far, it returns.  

Therefore Tao is great,  
Heaven is great,  
Earth is great,  
And the wise man is also great.  
These are the four great powers of the universe,  
Man follows the earth.  
Earth follows heaven.  
Heaven follows the Tao.  
Tao follows what is natural.  

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.