Sunday, December 27, 2020

A New Begining

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

The Way

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

Lao Tsu tells us: 

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

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

The nameless is the beginning of Heaven and Earth. 

With a name the mother of the ten thousand things. 



Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Letting Go

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

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

Friday, October 30, 2020

The Ancient Masters

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

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

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

The Way 

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

The Tao

Lao Tzu tells us:

The ancient masters were subtle and profound. 

The depth of their knowledge was unfathomable. 

The sage does not seek fulfilment. 

Not seeking, not expecting, 

He can welcome everything. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Staying Aware

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

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

The Way

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

The Tao

Lao Tzu tells us: 

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

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


Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Project Success

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

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

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

The Way  

But the wise project manager includes and cares for the users, the team and all the other project stakeholders.  He lets them be the judges of whether or not the project is successful (so I await the judgement of my readers).  

The Tao

Lao Tzu tells us:
Misfortune comes from having a body.  
Without a body, how could there be misfortune?  
Therefore honor life as yourself.  
Have faith in the way things are.  
Love the world as your own self,  
Then you can truly care for all things.  

Monday, May 18, 2020


It is really a long time since I've posted anything, but I am getting old, 77 at my next birthday if I'm lucky enough to survive. So locked in with nothing to do except look at my current books and one cried out for an update. Nothing to do with project management I'm afraid, but my now best selling book Sourdough Bread Made Easy. So I'm working on that, in fact I've nearly finished. 

My other project management books are in the process of being handed over as part of my succession planning to David Morris and Graham Moore. The deal with them is that the next release is a joint book with both our names on it, the one after that is all theirs. The only book I haven't been able to plan a hand over for is Effective Time Management in Easy Steps, so if anyone out there is interested in taking it over let me know. It really does need updating.

So back to the way for a moment and thinking about CoVid-19 there are a lot of people worrying about the risk of catching it and dying. So maybe we should meditate on that for a moment.

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 centered person can walk past unharmed.  The wise project manager does not worry about success or failure and this freedom keeps him safe from harm.

Lao Tzu tells us:
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.

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