Sunday, March 7, 2010

Anytime I get too big for my britches..

I just have to come home.  Kids are incredible and I am so blessed to have two wonderful children.  They can light up the room, make you angry, make you laugh until it hurts, make you cry, and make you look inside yourself.  All of that can happen in just a couple of hours!

My daughter asked me this weekend about writing a book and she felt that she should write a book.  I took her up on her offer.  Throughout the weekend she was thinking of characters, stories, situations for the characters, and the general flow of the book.  It was truly an amazing process.  She is 9 years old and has an incredible imagination.  To see her eyes light up when she saw how it was all coming together is something I want to hold in my heart.

My son, who is 3, is fascinated with "Where The Wild Things Are."  I caught him looking at himself in the mirror and practicing his "monster" face.  He was practicing a scowl and getting his hands just right, and then would stomp in the room and announce that he was going to "Eat you up!"  We just laughed and laughed!

We also got a chance to step out for some beautiful weather and go to a park.  I forget how much fun it was as a kid to just be outside and run.  They ran themselves silly and you couldn't get the smile off of my face.

As I reflect on the time this weekend with my family, I look at my station in life.  The job is going well, new ideas and advancements for the company is growing.  The speaking career is really taking off and I am getting booked in Germany, Panama, Brazil, and all over the US.  I am in real negotiations with book #3 and have taken some major steps in advancing towards a life long dream.  Yet, the role that I think I will really be measured on is the role of a Father and Husband.  Was I the best that I could be for them?  Sometimes, I have to remember that the career is a means for them, not the end or the quest.

I took time this weekend to work on that life long dream.  Many are asking me what it is, yet, I do not want to jinx it or discuss it until it is a done deal.  That could be a couple of days, weeks, months, or even years before it happens.  As excited as I am about having a clear vision as to what my future holds, I am so glad that my kids reminded me this weekend of why I pursue this future.  Why I am pushing the career so hard right now.

We were playing a game and my daughter questioned if I really did know anything.  It made me laugh.  It is truly amazing how someone can look at you and hold you in  such high regard, love you as much as they do, yet can make sure that I keep things in perspective.  I hope you take time as you read this to reflect on what is important in your life.  What the quest is really for or why we do what we do.  Realize that "tomorrow" is sometimes too long to wait to make time for what is important.

There really is no day but today,


Sunday, February 21, 2010

A lesson from Undercover Boss

Have you had a chance to see this show?  It is on CBS and has CEO's go undercover in their organization to get a sense of what it is like on the front lines.  The messages have been amazing.

The lesson that I get from the show is to never be afraid to roll up your sleeves and participate at the ground level.  This gives the unique perspective that many lose touch with.  We all have many ideas on how to run an organization or improve operations.  If we are lucky enough to set policies and make key decisions for a company, we rarely get to see the impact.  We also forget at times how each job is an important factor in how the overall organization runs.

Key Executives from organizations such as Waste Management and 7-11 are participating in this show and learning lessons that change their behaviors.  They see first hand how their policies are being carried out.  For instance, Larry O'Donnell, President of Waste Management, was very focused on efficiencies.  He wanted to ensure that everyone was a productive as possible.  Then he saw how one of the plants were carrying out his effeciencies.  They were docking double the amount of time they were late back from lunch.  This was something he did not anticipate.

Joe De Pinto, CEO of 7-11 saw how their charitable plans were not being followed.  A fantastic idea that was lacking in execution.  He also was taken aback by the people that really made the operation tick.  It is a lesson we should all learn.  When is the last time we truly walked a mile in someone else's shoes?  When is the last time we saw the impact of a decision?

For project sponsor's out there, when is the last time you really understood the impacts of the cost, schedule, and quality triangle?  If you are not sure, maybe it is time for you to become the undercover boss.

No day but today,


Friday, February 12, 2010

You have three choices...

This will be a short post, but it was on my mind.

I was completing my seminar with an organization and I received a question that I get often:

"What if none of this stuff works? What if the organization refuses?"

Unfortunately, there are really only three choices.

1) Persevere - You can work with the organization and continue to educate and be a positive force in changing the overall culture. If you truly follow the process of making emotional conversation unemotional (documented in my book) then through perseverance, will, and success, the culture WILL change. I have watched it occur over and over again.

2) Accept - If you feel that nothing you try will ever make a difference, then accept it for what it is. In essence, quit whining about it! ;)

3) Move On - If you feel that you can't persevere or accepting the results is not your style, then the only choice left is to leave the organization. I know that it can be difficult in these times, but if you can't live with the culture and do not have the perseverance to change it, then it is your only other option.

Understanding the three choices and being resolute on which one fits you and your situation can go a long way in making the first step. Once the decision is made (and of course, I will often choose #1) then you can focus on making the difference.

I promised it would be short!

No day but today,


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

But We Still Get to Work.........

I recently did a speech in Austin, TX.  One of the individuals attending asked a great question and I have thought about it ever since.

For those of you that have seen me, I often use an example of variance in estimates by asking someone how long it takes them to get to work.  Usually, it is between 300-500% variance.  I then explain that it is something that we do every day, but we have a wide variance.  If we have a variance on a known activity, how can we possibly select a date in the future on something that we have never done and be accurate? 

Someone in the audience raised their hand and said, "Yet, we still get to work on time.  If not, we would be fired!"  A great observation.  My response to it was that there is a wide acceptance of being late due to unforeseen circumstances.  However, I have thought about the question further and wanted to expand the answer.

First, there are several adjustments when we start a new job.  We may leave really early to ensure that we are at work on time and then slowly leave later and later until we settle on the right time.  There are also times where we can't leave any earlier due to having to leave a child at daycare or other circumstances.  In almost all cases, we come to an agreement with ourselves and our employer about what is and is not acceptable.

Second, there is acceptance of things beyond our control.  If there is a major accident on the highway and someone is not to work on time, the assumption is that they are caught in traffic.  In fact, many people will defend the missing person with this excuse without truly knowing the cause.  If the daycare opened late, the employee simply apologizes when they do get to work.

Third, the number of times early and late generally fall within the probability distribution that people estimate.  When you ask them how long it takes to get to work, their first response will follow the most likely distribution plus or minus a standard deviation.

Therefore, the case still stands.  If we can't guarantee how long it takes us to get to work, even though some of us have done it thousands of times because there are just things beyond our control, then how can we ask several people to perform tasks they may have never done before and be able to guarantee a date and time of being finished?

The point of all of this is that project manager's dates of completion are only our best guess or estimation.  We have a tremendous toolset available to help select the date, yet we are still predicting the unknown.  If we could guarantee the date, then we are in the wrong business.  Maybe we should have been stockbrokers!  Just a thought.....

No Day But Today,


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Metrics that Matter!

To me, data rules all!  In any situation, I need to define a metric to measure, measure it, and then utilize the data to make my point.  I was recently working with a client and we wanted to define a metric that would help prove the value of their project management efforts.  Like many clients, they have over 100 defined projects and 5 project managers.  To combat this, they have created several project lead positions to try to fix the project to manager ratio.  However, that just takes more time away from the project managers.  The problem is, how do you represent this?

We decided that there should be four "buckets" of time the project managers should use to track their time on each project that they work on.  They are:

-  Planning - Any time performing true planning activities
-  Communication - Any time in meetings, typing e-mails, handling phone calls, etc.
-  Administrative - Any time filling out project management systems, creating meeting minutes, etc.
-  Mentoring - Time spent helping the "project leads".

This should give us a total percentage of productive time the project managers used.  We should then be able to correlate project progress and status to the percentage of time in each category.

I will post back in a couple of months the results that we found, but felt that may help others out there trying to find the same information.

No day but today,


Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Lesson in Class....

I look everywhere for lessons, quotes, and motivational snippets to share with my followers.  Many of you also know that I am a big University of Tennessee fan.  I just watched the University go through it's own bit of recession.  I do not mean to harp on sports or Tennessee, but when it comes to communications in times of crisis, I couldn't resist sharing this quote.

Tennessee had taken a huge risk in hiring Lane Kiffin as their head coach.  When Lane came in, he immediately started making high profile remarks against solid programs such as Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama.  He made accusations and tabloid type rumors as sensationalism.  We all wrote that off as a young and cocky coach making a splash.  He later stated that it was a strategy to land high profile recruits which paid off when some of the top recruits chose Tennessee at the last minute.  I defended these actions to friends (and really to myself) because of the results.  I would tell people who would ask me that he had to get in the national spotlight to make up for time lost in recruiting.  I always had that uneasy feeling about the antics, yet I would try to reason them away.  For those of you have read my book, Kiffin was no doubt firing Scud missiles!  He continued his antics until finally, he shocked the entire Tennessee family by abruptly leaving Tennessee for his dream job of USC.

As tough as that was to hear, my wife and I had several discussions about what Tennessee players must feel like.  Many of them decided to come to Tennessee because of him and then he just left.  As many of these players who are learning to become men, the sense of abandonment must be overwhelming.  Less than 3 days later, Tennessee hired Derek Dooley as their new head coach.

Of course the press has had a field day with this story.  There are many young men out there searching for which program will suit them and the media loves controversial stories.  There are reports that Kiffin and his staff are telling Tennessee recruits not to attend class so they can get around some rules and enroll to USC with them.  Many of the same antics he did when he came to Tennessee, so nobody should be surprised that he is doing that now that he left Tennessee.  Among all of the controversy and widespread speculation, Tennessee hires Coach Dooley.  Roughly four hours from taking the job, Coach Dooley is standing at the podium for a press conference.  As reported by

A radio reporter asked Dooley if he would call any Southern California recruits and ask them not to go to class, making reference to reports that previous staff members had done the same to some of the Vols' mid-term enrollees when leaving UT.

Dooley just waved his right hand.

"Look guys, if you're going to look for sound bites and things from me that's going to attack other programs and disparage people, that's just not how I am," Dooley said. "I'm worried about Tennessee. I'm worried about what we need to get our program going, and I'm going to always keep my focus on that.

"I think when you're worrying about somebody else, what other people are doing, then you're not taking care of your own house. We got plenty to be feeling good about in this program, and that's what we should keep our focus on. The times of worrying about what happened are over."

There was a round of applause from a shocked community praying for comfort.  It would have been so easy to make a remark against Kiffin or to make a joke to try to get a quick win from the fanbase.  It would have been understandable to try to say something funny to hopefully win some favor from a hurt Tennessee program.  Instead, with dignity and respect, he made a commitment to focus on what we can do and to leave the grandstanding and headline grabbing remarks for other coaches.  To me, that was a lesson in class.  Welcome Coach Dooley.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What about my capacity?

I work with many organizations that really want to understand the capacity of their IT organization.  Rarely do the ask about the capacity of their project managers.  Building on the theme that not everyone can do project management, then maybe capacity to do projects starts at that level.  What if the organization limited the number of projects they can truly accomplish by the capacity of their project management staff?

I had a chance to build a PMO based on a very valid model.  They had a consultant perform a study about the type and length of projects and the demand that is required to handle what the organization wanted to complete.  It was determined that roughly 35 projects per year was the maximum for the company and a PM could run up to 5 of those projects during the year.  Therefore, the staffing model was set to 7 project managers.  We ended up completing 47 projects in the first year, but the expectation was set and the management of the company recognized the value that true project management can deliver.  So how do you determine the capacity or number of projects?

The best way to determine the capacity of your project management practice is to first establish tiers.  Projects should be classified in 3-4 tiers.  Tier 1 being the most strategic projects or the projects with the most risk.  Tier 2 is still a highly strategic project, but it is shorter in duration or is not as risky.  Tier 3 can be single unit or department initiatives and tier 4 can be internal initiatives or projects that can be run by team leads.  Based on the governance models of the organization, an estimate of a percentage of a PM's time can be assigned to each tier.  For instance, a tier one may take up 50% of a project managers time where a tier two may take 35%.  Once this has been established, then the capacity can be determined.  As an example:

If Tier 1 = 50%, Tier 2 = 35%, Tier 3 = 15% and I have 5 project managers, then the project capacity could be:

10 Tier 1 projects (500%)


5 Tier 1 (250%)
5 Tier 2 (175%)
5 Tier 3 (75%)


Any makeup that equals 500%.

This allows you to determine the real capacity of project management.