A Simple Process for Coaching and Mentoring

Project Coaching & Mentoring, PM Skills Development

Source: Articles by Mind Tools

The GROW Model

As a leader, one of your most important roles is to coach your people to do their best. By doing this, you'll help them make better decisions, solve problems that are holding them back, learn new skills, and otherwise progress their careers. Some people are fortunate enough to get formal training in coaching. However, many people have to develop this important skill themselves. This may sound daunting. But if you arm yourself with some proven techniques, practice, and trust your instincts, you can become a great coach. The GROW Model is a simple yet powerful framework for structuring your coaching or mentoring sessions. We'll look at how to apply the model in this article.

About the Model

GROW stands for:

  • Goal.
  • Current Reality.
  • Options (or Obstacles).
  • Will (or Way Forward).

The model was originally developed in the 1980s by performance coach Sir John Whitmore, although other coaches, such as Alan Fine and Graham Alexander, have also helped to develop.

Read the full article here

Project Management Tools

Project Management, PM Skills Development

Source: Articles by Mind Tools

As you move ahead in your career, you are likely to face more complex and difficult challenges.

Some of these will involve the coordination of many different people, the completion of many tasks in a precise sequence, and the expenditure of a great deal of time and money. Whether you succeed or fail with these projects depends on how good you are at project management.

This section of Mind Tools teaches more than 50 individual project management skills. Start with our quiz, which helps you assess your current skills levels. Then explore the key areas of project management, learn how to schedule projects, and find out how to manage change so that your projects are accepted and embraced by the people they affect. The Browse by Category box below will help you target specific project management skills areas, while you can look through the full list of tools to find interesting topics. Enjoy using these tools!

Read the full article here

Discover Management Tools that Help You Understand Your Skills Set

PM Skills Development

Source: Mind Tools Articles

Discover management tools that can help youto check yourself out

We all struggle trying to understand how and where we fit into our working and management environment. Then we are faced with self doubt about how good we are and what skills we have.

Mind Tools have a number of easy and simple self diagnostics you can apply and check yourself out:

Checking Yourself on:

How Good is Your Time Management?

Time Management, PM Skills Development

Source: Mind Tools Article

Discover time management tools that can help you

How often do you find yourself running out of time? Weekly, daily, hourly? For many, it seems that there's just never enough time in the day to get everything done.

When you know how to manage your time you gain control. Rather than busily working here, there, and everywhere (and not getting much done anywhere), effective time management helps you to choose what to work on and when. This is essential if you're to achieve anything of any real worth.

We've put together an interactive Time Management Quiz to help you identify the aspects of time management that you need most help with. The results will point you to the specific tools you need to use to gain control of your time, and start working efficiently.

How Good is Your Time Management?  Check yourself here

Do You Suffer From Burnout? A Self Test

Project Risk Management, HR Management, PM Skills Development

Source: Mind Tools Article - eNewsletter 263

Burnout Self-Test - Checking Yourself for Burnout

Burnout occurs when passionate, committed people become deeply disillusioned with a job or career from which they have previously derived much of their identity and meaning. It comes as the things that inspire passion and enthusiasm are stripped away, and tedious or unpleasant things crowd in. This tool can help you check yourself for burnout.


This tool can help you check yourself for burnout. It helps you look at the way you feel about your job and your experiences at work, so that you can get a feel for whether you are at risk of burnout.

Checking Yourself for Burnout here

Better Public Speaking

Announcements, PM Articles, Best Practices, Project Communications, PM Skills Development

Source: Mind Tools - eNewsletter 262

Whether we're talking in a team meeting or presenting in front of an audience, we all have to speak in public from time to time. We can do this well or we can do this badly, and the outcome strongly affects the way that people think about us. This is why public speaking causes so much anxiety and concern. The good news is that, with thorough preparation and practice, you can overcome your nervousness and perform exceptionally well.

This article explains how!

The 3 Rs of Project Management

Announcements, Project Management, Project Management Methodology, Quality Management, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

It may be said that a social contract, between a project team, the mother organisation, the client and society in general, is required to maintain trust. This type of social contract could be based on the ‘3 Rs’: rigour in decision making, respect for people and the environment and responsibility for individual and collective actions.

The work of projects has changed in recent years, as projects have become more complex in nature and more risky. As project workers strive for greater professionalism, accountability, adherence to standards, improved quality and better performance, more rigour in terms of decision-making abilities and processes is required.

In today’s world, decision making requires the special skills of listening, thinking and delivering. These skills must encapsulate the values and principles of all parties, as well as the contextual realities of the needs to be addressed. Project management is a balancing act between the humanitarian issues associated with values and principles and technical or operational issues. The humanitarian issues must be impartially and independently considered and the technical and operational issues must produce action that is appropriate, adapted and adequately informed, with minimal negative impact.

Projects are accomplished through the time and efforts of people, and providing respect and the right conditions to support people’s work is essential. In a project management environment, having respect for people does not just imply management trusting people to get on with the work unhindered, but rather to provide opportunities for the people to work together with management to solve problems. Respect for people should embrace mutual respect and understanding between managers and employees.

In project management, the structure for collective and individual responsibility is based on leadership and service to the project team. This structure includes the principals of people wanting to contribute, equality of team members, clarity and alignment of goals, continuous communication and feedback, self organisation and dedication to the truth.

Practical Wisdom and Project Management

Announcements, Project Management, Project Management Methodology, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

We need more wisdom in our lives, not the wisdom of philosophers and poets, but practical everyday wisdom, that will help us do the right things in the right way.

These are the words of Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe in their new book Practical Wisdom.

We are all born with wisdom, but during our lives it needs to be nurtured and given time to develop. The basic problem, argue Schwartz and Sharpe, is that there are too many rules and regulations and administrative oversight mechanisms, which are designed and implemented to reduce free thinking. In addition, there are incentives that encourage us to stick to the rules. The rules and regulations tell you what to do, oversight makes sure you do it and incentive systems provide you with a reward if you do and punishment if you don’t. The underlying basis of rules and oversight is that even if you want to do the right thing, you need to be told what it is and be watched to ensure you do it. The basis of incentives is that you will not be motivated to do the right thing if you don’t expect to get a reward for doing so. So it is all about sticks and carrots. In this form, sticks and carrots damage discretionary thinking and creativity and discourage innovation. This seems to be totally contrary to what is required in the modern professional and institutional world, where innovation is key to survival. What we need today is to exercise wisdom in all that we do so that we do the right things in the right way. Detailed rules and procedures undermine the skills that wisdom require. Much of the thinking and writing about project management has emphasised the use of tools and techniques, a 'scientific' or technology-based approach to the task and a great deal of management oversight and authority. The unpredictability of project environments, as technology, stakeholder expectations and the wider environment change, induce a degree of apprehension in what acting 'professionally' means in the circumstances of 'not knowing' exactly what is coming next. This severely exposes the shortcomings of a dominant project management regime. Wisdom, not rules and autocratic management, is required to secure the emergence of collaborative action to enable the ‘next-step’ and to create a position for further action. Practical wisdom is to know when to make ‘the exception to the rule’, when and how to improvise and when to use your skills in pursuit of the right objectives. Morally, practical wisdom is to serve other people, not to manipulate them. Project management and control need to be structurally formalised through procedures, contracts, regulations, standards and codes, with penalties where required. Practical wisdom in project management implies that the structures and environment should also be socialised through creative and innovative participation and collaboration among participants.

The Simple Things of Project Communications

Announcements, Project Management Methodology, Project Planning, HR Management, Project Communications, Project Scope Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Good communications can make a project a great success and bad communications a project disaster.

Despite the wide range of technology to manage and control project communications, such as shareware, document management systems, active white boards, video conferencing and, of course, the perennial favourite, PowerPoint presentations, communications actually boils down to four basic attributes of people: how they talk, listen, write and read. In business and human resource management, there has been a great deal of effort to train people to become better speakers and better technical and business writers. How to listen and how to read and comprehend seem to have been overlooked.

Psychologically, our ability to speak, listen, write and read are all interrelated: our communication cognitive function is a highly complex system. The more articulate we are when we speak, the easier it becomes for someone else to listen, the better you can listen, the more effectively you will write, the better you read, the better you will speak.

Although speaking, listening, writing and reading are highly developed human skills, there is a lot we don’t know about them. It would appear that most of the work that has been done by cognitive psychologists in trying to understand these skills have been focused on educational and therapeutic aspects. Accordingly, we know how people learn to read, speak, hear and write and why they fail to do so. However, we know very little about how they comprehend what they read, how they get to say what they do to make others comprehend, how they listen and comprehend what they hear and how and why they write what they do.

The common factor in all the cognitive skills is the construction of meaning or comprehension. Psychologist Richard E. Mayer believes that there are three kinds of knowledge needed for constructing meaning: content knowledge (prior knowledge about the subject), strategic knowledge (the strategy used by the individual to understand written and verbal structures) and metacognitive knowledge (the ability of the individual to monitor his or her own understanding.

It’s probably true that we have all had the experience of reading something or listening to someone speak, where we know what all the words mean but have little idea of the meaning of what we are reading or listening to. This clearly means that there is more to understanding than just the words themselves. Other processes are required to take the meanings of the words, together with their order in the stream of text or speech, to form a more global meaning. This, clearly has much relevance to project management, for example, understanding and being able to implement a project plan, in the context of the project and its stakeholders, requires a far higher level of meaning than just understanding what a WBS or Gantt Chart are.

Understanding is not discrete, it's a continuous scale of comprehension. You don’t either understand or not understand: your understanding at one time is at a particular level, which by effort, you can improve, or by lack of effort you can retard. However well you understand something, you can still do it better. Improving your level of comprehension is by talking, listening, reading and writing.

Risk and Uncertainty-Are They The Same Thing?

Project Management, Project Risk Management, Project Management Methodology, Project Planning, Project Scope Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Britain’s Royal Society, one of the oldest and most prestigious scientific bodies, has selected 12 key issues, which they believe will shape science in the 21st century and might gives us some idea of what we can expect in the years to come. Third on the list is how to cope with uncertainty.

Dealing with uncertainty is a major concern in all aspects of business, politics and socio-economics. It is also a major problem in project management, where the focus is to produce fixed deliverables against predefined budgets and schedules, all in unpredictable project environments.

One of the problems in project management is that uncertainty is often confused with risk, especially in complex projects.

Risk management is a fundamental element of project management, with the understanding of risk as an uncertain event or condition that, if occurring, will have a positive or negative effect on the project’s objectives. This understanding implies that risk is a potential future event that has the possibility of affecting project outcomes.

In contrast, uncertainty is not a future possibility but a present reality. For example, if a project scope is vague and unclear, the present reality is that the scope is uncertain, rather than being a risk, as if you can’t define something, how can you determine what risks there could be?

Resolving the uncertainty, for example seeking clarity and definition of the scope, is a different thing than identifying risks. It is true, however, that there is a risk (future)to achieving project objectives if the uncertainty (present) is not resolved.

The concepts of uncertainty and risk should be dealt with separately in managing a project. In risk management, the project team needs to plan and accommodate future events that may or may not happen. To manage project uncertainty, there has to be a proactive effort to fully understand the context of the project and to reduce ambiguities and confusion. Managing uncertainty implies exploring and understanding the origins of project uncertainty before seeking to identify and manage any perceived risks that may be embedded in the project context.

What Do Project Managers, Edward Hubble and Bats Have in Common?

Project Management, Project Risk Management, Project Management Methodology, Value Management, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

The famous Austrian physicist, Christian Johann Doppler, gave his name to a very important phenomenon in physics called the Doppler Effect. Light and sound waves appear to change their frequency if the source of the waves and the detector are in relative motion. In the classic example of the ambulance with blaring siren, sound waves from the approaching ambulance are compressed and increase their frequency and you can hear this higher pitch. Once the ambulance races past you, the sound waves stretch out and the frequency drops and so does the pitch. If you have an instrument that can measure the change in frequency you can calculate the speed of the ambulance-this is the basis of the dreaded radar speed traps.

Christian Johann Doppler

Edward Hubble (after whom the Hubble telescope was named) used the Doppler Effect to measure the rate at which the universe is expanding. By measuring the change in frequency of light waves emanating from distant galaxies, he found that the light waves are stretched out as the galaxy races out into open space. From this he, and many other scientists, postulated that the universe is expanding and from this they developed the Big Bang theory. By accurately measuring the frequency change Hubble was also able to develop a relationship, now known as Hubble’s Law, to determine the distance to any far-off galaxy.

Edward Hubble

The American zoologist Donald Griffin discovered that many species of bats emit complex high-pitched sound waves and rely on responding echoes to find their way about. For these bats, the saying ‘as blind as a bat’ is true. The bats, however, have sophisticated sound receivers, which are far better developed than the human ear. They also have extremely powerful and variable sound-emitting devices and onboard computers to exploit the Doppler Effect to a far greater extent than any instrument made by man. Although they emit pulses of sound, at varying rates up to 200 times a second, they are capable of distinguishing individual echoes from each other and can detect whether the echoes come from nearby or far objects, or even whether they come from other bats. They are also capable of varying the signal so as to achieve the greatest sensitivity in the returning signal. The Doppler Effect allows them to know the speed at which an insect is flying and in what direction. With this information, it is a pretty simple job to catch and eat the insect.

Like bats and Edward Hubble, project managers live in a world of echoes. These come from a variety of sources, like team members, divisional managers, accountants, users, clients, shareholders, vendors, consultants and other stakeholders and are responses to a multitude of continuously emitted signals. Unlike bats, most managers are poorly equipped to measure or analyse the echoes and to use the information carried by them. Autocratic project managers may even just ignore echoes. To the bat, the echo is more important than the emitted signal, for the echoes coming back carry the information they require for their survival.

Full story »

There’s Nothing New Under the PM Sun

Project Management, Project Risk Management, Project Management Methodology, Project Planning

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

The famous English Franciscan friar and philosopher Roger Bacon (c. 1214-1294) must have worked in project management. In a well known quotation of his, he stated a critical factor that is relevant to managing a project team or any team: “there are in fact four very different stumbling blocks in the way of grasping the truth...the example of weak and unworthy authority, longstanding custom, the feeling of the ignorant crowd, and the hiding of our own ignorance while making a display of our apparent knowledge”.

Roger Bacon was also known as Doctor Mirabilis (Latin: ‘wonderful teacher’) as he constantly taught all around him the importance of the scientific method and the use of empirical methods. He distinguished between experience, which he defined as knowledge of ‘singular’ things, and experimentation, which he saw as knowledge gained by observation and intellectual reasoning. For him, there are only two ways to acquire knowledge: reasoning and experience. Reasoning allows a conclusion to be drawn, but does not make the conclusion certain. The conclusion only becomes certain if it is proved or discovered by experience. The strongest arguments prove nothing so long as the conclusions are not verified by experience. Bacon was far ahead of his time in his advocacy of experimentation, insisting on observing things for himself instead of depending on what someone else had written or spoke about.

Bacon’s work pioneered the scientific method and in many ways was the forerunner of many modern management techniques, like adaptive management and action learning.

Adaptive management (often described as ‘a spoonful of rigour to help the uncertainty go down’) is a structured iterative process of decision making and continual monitoring to accrue information needed to make the next decisions. One of the key features of adaptive management is the continual exploration for fresher and deeper discovery for learning, unlearning and relearning for what is needed to confidently engage the future. There is a willingness to endure discomfort and disequilibrium, to try new things, to risk failure and have the courage to challenge existing ‘successful’ models of leadership.

Action learning relies on action, and knowledge gained by that action, to improve performance. It is essentially learning-by-doing and teaching through observation, examples and repetitions, exactly what Roger bacon was saying in the 13th century.

Cognitive Biases in Project Decision Making

Project Management, Project Risk Management, Project Planning, Project Scope Management, Project Estimating

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Cognitive biases are mental errors caused by our simplified information processing strategies. The human mind is limited in how much information it can process and in how much detail it can remember. In order to reduce the cognitive burden, we tend to take short cuts when solving a complex problem. These short cuts, called heuristics, may be simple for the brain to compute, but they introduce systematic errors, which are the basis for most of our cognitive biases, and become consistently and predictably embedded in our thought processes.

Cognitive biases are different from other forms of bias, such as cultural bias, race and gender biases and biases from one’s own self-interest, which are generally founded on emotional or intellectual predisposition toward certain judgements. Cognitive biases are mental errors.

A wide range of cognitive biases related to decision making has been identified by psychologists, which have great relevance to project management decision-making. Some of these include Negativity Bias, where we give more weight to negative experiences than positive experiences or other kinds of information, the Interloper/Consultant bias, where we value third party consultation as objective, confirming and without motive, the Neglect of Probability bias, where we disregard probability when making decisions under uncertainty, the so-called Semmelweis Reflex, where we tend to reject new evidence that contradicts an established paradigm, the Not-Invented-Here bias, where we ignore a product or solution that already exists because its source is seen as an ‘enemy’ or as ‘inferior’ and the Bandwagon Effect, where we have a tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same.

Kahneman and Tversky (1979) developed a theory for a Planning Bias, which has much relevance to project planning. They found that human judgement is generally optimistic when it comes to planned action due to overconfidence and insufficient consideration being given to the probabilistic nature of the information they use for planning. Because of this bias, according to Kahneman and Tversky, planners tend to underestimate costs, completion times and risks, but overestimate the benefits of the planned actions. The fundamental cause of this bias is the ‘inside view’ that planners take, where most focus is placed on the specific planned action and very little focus is given to actual outcomes of similar plans. Factors that planners perceive to lie outside the specifics of the project are ignored.

The problem of ‘authorisation imperative’,where financial approval is required along the way, can compound the effect of the planning bias. This often has a direct effect of causing the planner to underestimate the costs, believing it to be easier to get forgiveness for cost overruns than to get the project canned if the project is perceived as unaffordable.

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4PM.com - Project Planning: The Highly Creative First Step

PM Articles, Best Practices, Project Planning

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

In project planning, the PM should lay the groundwork for controlling the scope, begin the process of controlling expectations and also build his/ her credibility with the sponsor. Achieving those things rarely happens. Dick Billows, PMP, explains how to avoid the common traps in project planning.

Read the whole article here

4PM.com - Critical Path: Optimizing Your Project Schedules

PM Articles, Best Practices, Project Planning

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Everybody's heard of the critical path but too few project managers actually use it to shorten the duration of their projects and identify which problems they have to address and which they can safely ignore. Dick Billows, PMP, walks you through the procedure of analyzing a critical path in Microsoft Project software and using the data to shorten the project duration.

Read the whole article here

4PM.com - Moments of Truth with Your Project Team

Project Coaching & Mentoring, PM Articles, Best Practices, Project Communications

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

If you don't do a good job on the three moments of truth with your project team, managing them will be like marching behind the elephants in the circus parade. We walk you through the three moments of truth with the project team and show you the mistakes and then the best practices. Read the whole article here

4PM.com - Work Packages: The Key to Crystal Clear Assignments and Team Member Commitment

PM Articles, Best Practices, Project Scope Management

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

The work package is certainly not a sexy project management tool and maybe that's why too few project managers use them. We get a number of benefits when we use a work package to be crystal clear about the performance expectations we have from our team members. First, the level of commitment to the assignment tends to go up. Second, the amount of padding in the team members' estimates tends to go down because the team members don't have to protect themselves from scope creep.

Read the whole article here

4PM.com - Project Estimating: Good, Bad & "in the Ballpark"

PM Articles, Best Practices, Project Estimating

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

To survive the estimating process, successful project managers use a sequence of four estimating techniques at various stages of the project. These techniques don't make everyone happy but at least they won't put a noose around your neck like so many "best guesses do.

Read the whole article here

4PM.com - The 5 Dumbest Things a Project Manager Can Say.

PM Articles, Best Practices, Project Communications

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Chris Pimbock, our expert PM, listens in on project meetings with gritted teeth as one project manager after another says something truly stupid to executives, team members and stakeholders. Listen in and see if you've said these things. Read the whole article here

4PM.com - Post-Project Reviews: Lessons Never Learned

PM Articles, Best Practices, Lessons Learnt

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Lessons learned processes usually produce little more than conflict. Project management processes don't improve and the organization repeats the same mistakes over and over. A living lessons learned process can lead to improved project performance and more effective project sponsors, PMs and team members.

Read the whole article here

4PM.com - Initiating Projects with a Statement of Work (SOW)

PM Articles, Best Practices, Project Scope Management

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

The SOW is often treated as just another form to fill out. But when it’s used properly , it helps us control expectations early and set unambiguous targets as well as reduce uncertainty.

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4PM.com - Project Planning: A Creative and Highly Political Task

PM Articles, Best Practices, Project Planning

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Project managers must apply a different tool set when they plan a new project with executives. The thinking techniques are much more strategic, require big picture vision and include more than a little political maneuvering. But fail at the first step, and saving the project is difficult if not impossible.

Read the whole article here

4PM.com - Have Three Project Methodologies in Your Tool Kit

Project Management Methodology, PM Articles

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

No single methodology is right for every project. Look at a three-tiered methodology with just enough project management to ensure success on small projects and plenty of techniques for the big ones.

Read the whole article here

4PM.com - Custom Tailor the Plan for Your Boss or the Client

PM Articles, Best Practices, Project Planning

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Project managers build their credibility when they spend a lot of time listening during the planning process and then pick out the key achievements or business results that the sponsor wants. Then they can custom tailor the project plan for their boss or client in ways than satisfy them in the beginning and, most importantly, at the end of the project.

Read the whole article here

4PM.com - WBS - Project Design Issue or Clerical Task

PM Articles, Best Practices

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Very often the quality of the team member assignments, the accuracy of the tracking and the very success or failure of a project depends on the work breakdown structure (WBS). Learn about some of the common mistakes and the best practices that avoid them.

Read the whole article here

4PM.com - Status Reports That Stupefy

PM Articles, Best Practices, Project Reporting

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Do your status reports leave executives with less decision making data than they had before you started to talk? See a bad status report and then learn the best practices.
All too often Executives languish with little if any decision-making information from project status reports. Let's look at a bad status report and ten at what should be done.

Read the whole article here

Turn Creative Project Team Members Into Skunks To Keep Them Away From Predators

Project Management, Project Risk Management, Project Management Methodology, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

There are usually two types of people in any project team; those that generate new ideas and those that don’t. The creative ones are those that make mistakes and the non-creative those that don’t. Regrettably, it is usually the ones who never make mistakes that get noticed for promotion. Those that do make mistakes sometimes, either voluntarily or involuntarily, leave the project team, often to join other project teams where mistakes are viewed as part of the creative process. If they stay on, they are forced to learn not to make mistakes and in so doing become less and less creative. Eventually, the whole project team is likely to end up with a total complement of non-creative staff.

Non-creative people often prey on the mistakes of others, behaving like predators. They focus on and devour the mistakes, with little appreciation of the idea itself. They show very little enthusiasm for anything new or different. They do not realise that the innovative process includes making mistakes, and that creative people should be judged on the number of mistakes made, since this indicates the number of new ideas being developed. It’s the final result that really counts, and truly creative people will get to a final result, irrespective of the number of failures along the way.

In project teams, predators are easy to recognise: they are nitpickers, topic-jumpers and blockers. They are usually very negative in outlook, shirk responsibility and have little urgency, purpose or sense of direction. Predators will not take risks. Their growth cycle usually comprises the elements of non-achievement, boredom, low self confidence, immobilisation and non-achievement. A creative person’s development cycle, on the otherhand, comprises the achievement of goals, satisfaction, pride and enhanced self confidence. Predators and producers of new ideas do not work well together.

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Problem Analysis and Decision Making

Project Management, Project Risk Management, Quality Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Each of us, every day of our lives, have to make decisions. Our decisions can be small, big, critical or mundane. Generally, we don’t make the best decisions even if we have the best information. This is often because the decision-making strategies we use become complex as they usually depend on an interplay between economic factors (for example, what economic benefits we can see), our decision-making skills (for example, do we rely on our intuition or do we reason things out)and psychology (for example, our cognitive ability).

Another problem we often have is that in trying to make decisions, we often confuse problem analysis with decision making. If we think about it, problem analysis and decision making are two different things. Information we require for problem analysis is different from the information we require for decision making.

Deviations from performance standards are often the most likely cause of a problem. Performance standards prescribe what has to be achieved. Performance analysis identifies what actually has been achieved. Analysing the reasons for deviations from performance standards is often the best way for analysing a problem.

For decision making, we first need to establish and prioritise our objectives. We then need to identify a range of potential actions and evaluate them against all the objectives. The action that is considered able to achieve all the objectives in the best way becomes our tentative decision. To become our final decision, that decision must be evaluated for possible consequences that will impact upon the achievement of the objectives as a result of possible threats or risks that we have identified and evaluated. We can only accept the decision if we are able to mitigate and manage the possible threats and risks. If not, we start the process over by choosing another course of action.

While they are obviously interrelated, the distinction between problem analysis,problem solving and decision making should be made clear in any project environment. Problems caused by performance deviations should relate to achieving schedule, quality and cost requirements while decision making is the realm of identifying, evaluating and mitigating threats and risks, and any possible consequential impact on the project objectives.

Time and Complexity in Project Management

Project Management, Project Risk Management, Project Management Methodology, Project Planning

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

The famous philosopher of science, Karl Popper, believed that we live in a universe of clocks and clouds. Clocks are predictable and unchanging, but clouds change all the time in a complex manner, with their existence and formation at any particular time being uncertain and unpredictable. In our personal life, and in the work we do, the predictability of time and the uncertainty of our clouds must be in harmonious balance.

Project management also has its clocks and clouds and they need to be balanced for successful outcomes. Project scheduling, the computerised calculated activity dates and logic, could be said to be part of the clock, with planning, an experience-based group process often dictated by communication, social behaviour and networks, being part of the cloud. Planning, which must precede scheduling, and scheduling are allied disciplines but are different, and their different clock and cloud characteristics must be balanced.

Simple projects, which have a greater relative clock component than complex projects, might be able to be managed by reliance on time management alone. In complex projects, which have a large cloud component, there are many consequential possibilities, related to uncertainty and unpredictability, for them to be managed purely by time management. Consequences of possible changes on scheduled activities, as well as their effect on other intervening events, need to be assessed and managed relative a changing time frame.

The clock and cloud characteristics of a project imply that projects are not all the same, with these differences related to the size of the project (value), the degree of technical difficulty (complicatedness), the degree of uncertainty involved in defining objectives and the complexity of the relationships surrounding the project.

Irrespective of how competently managed the clock parts of a project are, the outcome of a complex project is always uncertain. The key to blending the clock and cloud components of these types of projects is effective risk management. The risk management process should include a competent prediction and appraisal of possible risks that might disrupt or delay the progress of the work. It should also include a practical achievable strategy for dealing with possible intervening events during the design, procurement and construction processes.

The overall objective of the risk management process is to recognise that each project is unique with different clock and cloud characteristics.

Individual Worth and Professionalism

Project Management, Value Management, Best Practices, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

One of the most subjective and misunderstood words in the English language is ‘value’. Engineers define value as function (or performance) per unit cost. The cheaper an item is, for a given function, the higher its value is. There is, however, somewhat of a problem when it comes to defining cost: does one mean simply the initial cost of the item or its cost of ownership? Correct and consistent definition and measurement of both function and cost are extremely important if one wants to measure and evaluate value.

Some project managers may tend to view their project team members like commodities; things that can be purchased to fulfil certain functions, for example planning and scheduling, and therefore they believe they can measure their value. They know what the team member is supposed to do and they generally know what it costs to employ them. Is this the right way of determining the value of an project team member?

Apart from the skills and knowledge that a person has and from which value can be derived, an individual also has ‘worth’, i.e. some quality, or qualities, that renders that person desirable, useful and worth having in the project team. These qualities might be: synergy with other team members, innovative ability to produce new ideas, commitment to the project goals, sensitivity to risk, loyalty to the project manager and social intelligence and networking skills, all of which could cynically be regarded as being of secondary importance but in the world of projects are vital and of critical importance.

Psychologists generally believe that a person’s individual worth is that person’s relationship to ‘quality’ in the broadest sense of the word. This really means that whatever you do and whatever work you are involved in, you give it your best shot; your best efforts represent your personal level of quality. The famous American psychologist Robert Pirsig believed that ‘further improvement to the world will only be done by individuals making quality decisions and that’s all’. Projecting this to the wider world, Pirsig believed that individual worth, as defined by the individual’s relationship to quality, is the most critical resource a country can have.

In the context of project management, project workers should equate their definition of quality to ‘professionalism’ resting on the special relation to the subject and work matters (whatever they may be) in which they are involved.

Professionalism not only relates to the highest possible level of work endeavours but also to a high standard of professional ethics, such as loyalty, commitment, confidentiality, integrity, governance, safeguarding client interests and unblemished behaviour. It also implies appropriate treatment of relationships with colleagues, especially to younger and less experienced colleagues.

Of course, in project management, the ethical and quality worthiness of professionalism must be strongly balanced with competencies. Such competencies would include the mastery of theoretical knowledge, the application of theoretical knowledge to practice, ability to create knowledge by problem solving and commitment to continuous learning about the profession.

It’s interesting to note that Pirsig does not differentiate between professionals and non-professionals by competency alone but rather by individual worth as related to quality. He also introduced the word ‘technician’ as someone who “has become so deeply involved in his field that he has lost the ability to communicate with people outside”.

Social Intelligence Can Lead To Emotional Contagion

Project Management, HR Management, Project Communications

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

The term ‘Social Intelligence’ was first coined by in the 1940s by the American psychologist Edward Lee Thorndike as ‘the ability to understand and manage men and women, boys and girls and to act wisely in human relations’. Since that time, building upon the concept, other terms have also been used , such as ‘theory of mind’, ‘social cognition and social marketing intelligence’. The well known American psychologist and writer, Howard Gardner, has also included social intelligence in his Theory of Multiple Intelligences, (outlined in Frames of Mind) along with Abstract Intelligence (IQ), Practical Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence, Aesthetic Intelligence and Kinaesthetic Intelligence. In essence, social intelligence is simply the ability to get along well with others and to get them to cooperate with you. Sounds so simple!

Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, in an article entitled ‘Social Intelligence and Biology of Leadership' published by Harvard Business Review (September 2008), raised social intelligence to another level , arguing that it’s not sufficient to understand just the psychology of social intelligence in leadership, but also the biology. Aspects such as having empathy and being attuned to others’ moods affect team performance. They quoted researchers who found that the leader-follower dynamic relationship is not just a case of independent brains reacting consciously or unconsciously to each other, but rather that the individual minds are interconnected. A leader who uses social behaviour to reinforce this interconnectedness will foster positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support are needed. By expertly managing interconnections, leaders can deliver powerful results.

The biology of social intelligence can be said to be based on mirror neurons that each person has in their brain. As Goleman and Boyatzis state: ‘when we consciously or unconsciously detect someone else’s emotions through their actions, our brain’s mirror neurons reproduce those emotions and allows us to instantly share that experience’. If followers can socially connect with their leaders, they will emotionally feel whatever the leader is feeling and will act accordingly.

Social interconnectedness can, however, lead to Emotional Contagion, which is the tendency to catch and feel other peoples’ emotions and be influenced by others. In a group, one or more people can influence the emotions and behaviours of the others through the conscious or unconscious induction of emotion states and behavioural attitudes.

As people usually respond differently to positive and negative stimuli, and the fact that negative events tend to elicit stronger and more passionate responses, emotional contagion is often harmful in a team environment. Unpleasant emotions are more likely to lead to negative mood contagion than pleasant emotions.

Team leaders can minimise negative emotional contagion by encouraging a stable team (minimum staff turnovers), leading and inspiring task interdependence, collaboration and social interdependence. Openness to receive and transmit feelings is also an important factor to bring about positive emotional contagion.

Putting Good People in the Right Jobs

Project Management, Value Management, Quality Management, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

In many of companies, especially ‘high-profile’ ones, which often have no difficulty in attracting superior staff, you will generally find very few poor performers, but you often find good people who are in the wrong job. The challenge for managers is to put the good person in the right job.

Good people want jobs that will allow them to feel challenged, stretched and inspired. As Antoine de Saint-Exupèry stated in an article in the Harvard Business Review: ‘If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up men to go to the forest to gather wood, saw it, and nail the planks together. Instead, teach them the desire for the sea.’

Good people also want to be able to exercise their right and obligation to express a dissenting view and be allowed to argue that view, while not havng to undergo the ‘shoot the messenger’ syndrome or unexplained rebuttal. They also need to know that if they are honest enough to come forward when they make a mistake, their manager will view appreciate their honesty. There is an old story about Werner von Braun who had one of his engineers confess to him that he didn’t connect some wires as he should have. Von Braun bought him a bottle of whisky as a reward for being honest and even helped him drink it too! A project manager depends on people with integrity to report honestly. Good people appreciate a manager, who when something does not go quite right in a project or in something that he should have done says: “Well, maybe I didn’t explain as clearly as I should have what it was I needed you to do”.

Good people are generally passionate about what they do and need to be in a job that is highly energising to them and feeds their passion. Such people are not easily discouraged and learn from difficult and challenging events in order to maintain their commitment. They can cope with adversity quite easily.

People with excellence seek, and often achieve, habitual winning and see challenges as merely obstacles in their pursuit of excellence. In the right project team environment, these types of people aspire to win, not just for their sake, but also collectively for the team. For them to win means that the project team has performed at a level that no other project team can reach.

Good people want to be in jobs in which they can exercise their personal core values and for this reason need a manager and team colleagues that share these values. These values become what the person and the team are. When done right, they lead the team in everything they do: they are the moral compass of the project team.

Project Simplicity

Project Management, Time Management, Project Management Methodology, Project Planning, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

A famous cricketer once said: “Cricket is a simple game, if you play it simply”. Similarly, project management is simple, if you keep things simple.

The most famous commentator on simplicity was probably the 14th Century English theologian, William of Ockham for Occam’s Razor, which is a principle that “ entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity” , popularly interpreted as the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. Aristotle and Albert Einstein also viewed simplicity as a virtue but pointed some dangers of oversimplification: Aristotle: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler” Einstein: “Seek simplicity, but distrust it”.

While we all agree that simplicity is something to be aimed for, we often find it difficult to practice. We are afraid of looking stupid if we offer up something simple and assume, rather, that if we make it complex it will appear better and we will look more intelligent. The problem is not that complex concepts are made too simple, rather that simple things are made too complicated.

In his book, ‘The Laws of Simplicity’, John Maeda, has outlined a few basic ways to achieve simplicity in the business world and these apply equally as well to project management.

Simplicity means achieving the maximum effect, or value, with minimum means. The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction; sorting your way through a maze of complexity to recognise the few really important issues. When you can simplify functionality without penalty you have achieved simplicity.

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Positive Deviance

Project Management, Project Management Methodology, HR Management, Project Communications

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Positive Deviance is a social behavioural phenomenon, where certain members of a community(the so-called ‘positive deviants’) are able to solve problems that other members of the community cannot. They do this on their own and without special resources or knowledge, although they face the same challenges and obstacles as their peers.

First used to reduce malnutrition in Vietnam in the 1990s, the application of positive deviance to bring about social change, relies on the knowledge and wisdom of ‘outliers’ in the community who are managing to do better than the rest of the community. Instead of imposing solutions from without, social workers, who recognise the importance of positive deviance, facilitate the acceptance by the whole community of the behaviours and strategies of the positive deviants. Instead of throwing money at a community problem or devising grand solutions, positive deviance urges the whole community to look more closely at what some of their members are already doing and to encourage them to accept the practices of the deviants. In this way, the social workers acknowledge that the communities already have the knowledge and all they need to do is to transform the positive deviants’ knowledge into collective knowledge.

In their pioneering book on positive deviance (The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems), authors Richard Pascal and Jerry and Monique Sternin demonstrate the positive deviance requires the letting-go of traditional ideas about authority and power and, instead, allowing people to discover answers for themselves through their actions.

The concept of positive deviance in managing change can be extremely valuable in project management. Project leadership will be encouraged to be inquiry-based, problem solving will flow from solution identification, successful processes and procedures will be open to self-replication and the project management team will be asset-based and learning driven. Rather than starting with prescribed definitions and practices, attention can shift to fertile new grounds and minds that are opened to reveal new possibilities. The old adage ‘seeing is believing’ has special potency and examples of solutions that have worked in similar circumstances must be discovered and communicated.

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The Scientific Method and Project Management

Project Management, Project Management Methodology, Project Planning, Project Reporting, Project Scope Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

The scientific method is what keeps scientists busy and earns them a living. Using established principles and processes of discovery and demonstration, they observe nature and physical phenomena, formulate hypotheses to explain the phenomena, experiment by means of repeatable tests to show the truth or falseness of the hypotheses, validate or modify the hypotheses and then share their data with other scientists. If an hypothesis remains proven, by successfully being tested or applied over a period of time, it can become a theory. Theories can then be combined to derive a coherent and supportive structure. Scientists use the scientific method to search for cause and effect relationships in nature. In this way their experiments are designed in such a way to see what changes to one item cause some other item to vary in a predictable way.

The scientific method is unemotional and impersonal. The only chance for real success in science is to describe the evidence without regard to the way you feel it should be. The good and bad parts of a theory have to be explained impartially. As the famous Nobel Physics prize winner, Richard Feynman, stated: "Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. Science is what we do to prevent us lying to ourselves.”

The body of scientific knowledge at any point in history, including now, is simply the collection of theories and views of the world that have not yet been shown to be wrong. Somewhat flippantly, compare this to the project management body of knowledge, which does not consist of theories but consists mainly of various methodologies and procedures. Based on documented records of project management performance, it would be untrue to say that the current body of project management knowledge represents views that have not yet shown to be wrong.

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Conversations in Project Management

Project Management, HR Management, Project Communications

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Project management is generally a formal environment. Regular meetings are held at scheduled times, stylised minutes must be produced and frequent reports, using approved templates, are widely circulated. Does this environment represent the core organising competency of the project? The answer surely must be ‘No’, if the role of conversation is not included.

Conversation is indispensible for the successful accomplishment of activities between people , especially for the coordination of work and for learning. It is also the foundation of the social network that is critical for the successful achievement of project objectives and goals. Conversation drives shared meaning and collective power and wisdom among project team members.

Conversations allow people with different views on a topic to learn from each other and are unlike presentations, which are popular in project management, where one person talks to a group of people. For a successful conversation, the participants must achieve a workable balance of contributions. A successful conversation includes mutually interesting connections between the participants or things that they know. For this to happen, those engaging in conversation must find a topic to which all participants relate.

No every aspect of a project is visible or appears in the project reports. Dialogue, through conversation, is one example. And yet, this is where most of the work gets done. It’s the place where objectives get set, where feedback is given and where problems are resolved. Socially, it’s where praise is received, support offered and where relationships are maintained or restored.

Yet, somehow, this self-evident truth often gets lost in the operational and organisational mist of managing large and complex projects. Processes and structures, which are more visible and more easily to be controlled, receive far more attention than the frequency and quality of conversations.

In a very real sense, a project is the sum of a thousand different everyday conversations. The quality of these conversations can make or break the project.

Are Best Practices Best?

Project Management, Project Management Methodology, Best Practices

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Project management teams are generally requested, encouraged, and often instructed, to ensure that ‘best practices’ are used. These practices are techniques, processes, methods, activities that current ‘conventional wisdom’ regards as being the most effective for delivering particular project outcomes in specific conditions or circumstances.

The fundamental premise behind the idea of best practices is that it is believed possible to reproduce the successes of those who excel by imitating the practices that they use. Although this might seem obvious and uncontroversial, there are many project managers who have lived through implementation of best practices on their projects and who came to realise that such prescriptions do not guarantee success.

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Communicate Thoughts and Meanings Not Facts and Data

Project Management, Project Communications, Project Reporting

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Steven Rose, in The Making of Memory, describes how many ancient philosophers were dubious about having a written culture. They claimed that writing was inhuman-it depersonalised thoughts and weakened the mind.

Socrates even argued that writing destroys memory and those who write will become forgetful since they have to rely on external sources for what they lack in internal resources

Do these beliefs of the ancient philosophers strike a chord with many of us involved in project management, where everything has to be written down in endless memos, reports, notes, etc., and where the spoken word seems to have become secondary to the written one? Are we not becoming depersonalised as a result of having to write everything down.

Without delving too deeply into the psychology of thought or the physiology of the brain, let us for a moment dwell on whether writing something down improves memory. Most memory-enhancing courses recommend that pictures or symbols are better than words when preparing for a talk or presentation. Words on their own seem difficult to remember whereas graphics are more easily absorbed by the brain. Why is this? Is it perhaps because the brain works more with thoughts and meanings and is unlike a computer which works with data? Pictures and symbols carry with them personally interpreted thoughts, whereas words, or sentences, are more rigid in their interpretation. Words and data are facts with rigid meanings and are difficult to translate into thoughts. As a result the brain has difficulty in remembering them. As Mark Twain said: “A man’s private thoughts can never be a lie; what he thinks, is to him the truth, always.” We are more easily able to forget facts than our thoughts.

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Project Management Needs More Ideas and Fewer Opinions

Project Management, Project Coaching & Mentoring, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

A project team is often a very opinionated environment. Everyone on the team has opinions on the way the project is being managed, how good or bad the client is, how project risk should be managed, what things should be included and what excluded, and so on.

Many of these opinions are formed by blind acceptance of project management ‘dogma’, fear of being perceived to oppose the client, what other project managers might have, or might not, have done in the past and how other projects are being implemented. Our opinions are subjectively vested in what we believe in and who we believe we are. Sometimes, we believe we are more objective than we really are, but these are generally the argumentative times when we strive to get others to accept our opinion rather than theirs. Sometimes our opinions are based on facts, but more often than not, on emotion. An opinion may be supported by a fact-based argument, but normally different people draw opposing opinions from the same set of facts.

Unlike opinions, which can be accepted, rejected or ignored, ideas can be shared. The British author Matt Ridley (The Rational Optimist) believes that ideas, if shared, are like sexual reproduction; they produce a new idea containing the elements of the shared idea. Through history, says Ridley, the engine of human progress and prosperity has been, and is, the mating of ideas. The sophistication of the modern world lies not in individual intelligence or imagination; rather it is a collective enterprise. Sharing ideas provides the basis of prosperity: “everybody is working for everybody else." It's not important how clever individuals are, says Ridley; what really matters is how smart the collective brain is.

Once an idea is shared it becomes the property of all. Thomas Jefferson (Unbounded Freedom: Patents and Freedom of Ideas) believed that the one thing that is less susceptible than all others of exclusive property is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it becomes the possession of every one. “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me”.

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Expecting Better Results By Praising

Project Management, Project Coaching & Mentoring, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Does your project team ever ask you why you never praise them when they do a really good job? Is it because you believe praise does not work? Every time you have praised a member of your team for some good work, the next piece of work you receive is always mediocre. Thus, you believe praise not only does not make the team member any better at his work, in fact it makes him worse.

On the contrary, you might also have noticed that berating a team member after a very poor performance improves their subsequent performance.

This type of management behaviour: avoidance of praise after a good performance and beratement after a poor performance, is often connected with a statistical tendency, known as ‘regression to the mean’, where extreme behaviour (or scores) often return toward the average. Examples are ‘the rookie slump’, where the level of an athlete or sportsman drops off after their initial year and the so-called ‘Sports Illustrated Jinx’ where a sporting team that has a great year with loads of publicity, performs significantly worse the next year. In the case of the rookie, the supposed slump in performance is not really a decrease in performance, but rather a move toward the average performance of the player. In the case of the sporting team, despite one exceptional year, in time, the performance of the team will return to their average level of play.

In his book, The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, author Leonard Mlodinow describes how all manner of events, sporting events, gambling, betting, box office successes, and probably project team performance as well, follow a property of regressing to a mean. This means that although a single event or a small sample of events in succession, may appear to be unique, if you analyse these events over a long enough period of time you will note that aberrations (also called outliers) are quickly compensated for by other outcomes that return the pattern to some underlying mean. It also means that extraordinary events are most likely to be followed, due purely to chance and randomness, by a more ordinary one. In fact, if regression to the mean did not happen, everything would go out of control: extraordinary performances would be followed by more extraordinary ones and inferiority would escalate: we would live in a world of progressive extreme extremes.

Praise should always be levied where necessary, but exceptional performance should not necessarily be expected to follow exceptional performance. Poor performance should be commented on, in a mentoring environment, and when poor performance follows poor performance, there being no return to the average performance, there should be an intervention and this would indicate a problem.

The Relevance of Crew Resource Management (CRM) to Project Management

Project Management, Project Risk Management, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

In the 1970's, aircraft accident investigators determined that that the major cause of accidents involved human error, with other causes, such as equipment failure and weather being less significant. Subsequent to this determination , a NASA workshop, convened to examine the role of human error in aircraft accidents, determined that the majority of flight crew errors consisted of failures in leadership, team coordination, and decision-making.

The response of the aviation community was to develop new kinds of psychological training for flight crews. This training focuses on group dynamics, leadership, interpersonal communications, and decision-making and is now known as Crew Resource Management (CRM) and defined by the US National Transportation Safety Board as the ability of the flight crew to use all available resources; information, equipment, and people; to achieve safe and efficient flight operations. Specifically, it is the process that the flight crew actively uses to identify avoid, manage, and mitigate human errors , by identifying existing and potential threats, and developing, communicating and implementing plans and actions to avoid or mitigate identified threats.

CRM has a broad vista and interacts with such aspects as: solving problems in ever-changing environments, effective sharing of information, verbalisation of thought processes, how to deal with the unexpected, how to concurrently manage tasks, developing situational awareness, improving emotional intelligence, accurate and rapid communication, how to handle interruptions and the importance of delegation. In essence, CRM involves enhancing team members’ understanding of human performance, in particular the social and cognitive aspects of effective teamwork and good decision-making.

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The Psychology of Health and Safety

Project Management, Project SHE Management (OHS Act)

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Occupational Health Psychology (OHP) is a relatively new branch of Occupational Health and Safety. This field is concerned with behavioural psychology as it affects the implementation and sustainability of work-place health and safety regulations. In its broadest form, OHP is involved in the recognition, measurement and alleviation of worker stress, which has often been seen as a key factor in the cause of accidents.

A key figure in the development of a more focused view of psychology in health and safety is Emeritus Professor Gerald Wilde at Queen’s University in Canada, who has gained fame (some might say notoriety) with his Risk Homeostasis theory, which is elucidated in his book ‘Target Risk 2: A New Psychology of Safety and Health’.

Risk Homeostasis, also called Risk Compensation, argues that traditional health and safety campaigns tend to ‘move accidents around’ rather than eliminate or reduce their incidence. This is because these traditional approaches fail to motivate individuals to change their ‘target level’ of risk, which is defined as the amount of risk that they are willing to accept in their everyday lives. Individuals tend to adapt their behaviour to more stringent regulations , but increase their level of risk-taking in other areas. It’s as if we have a built-in risk-taking thermostat, a subconscious sense of our personal risk-taking behaviour; our own individual ‘target risk’. We set a risk target and adjust our behavior accordingly.

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The Role of Materials in Constructability Reviews

Project Risk Management, Managing Project Corrosion Risks, Project SHE Management (OHS Act), Construction Project Management, Value Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

The concept of ‘constructability’ is well known in construction project management. A constructability review is applied during the project feasibility stage, as well as during other stages of the project, to identify construction obstacles and risks in order to prevent mistakes and avoid time and cost overruns.

Constructability reviews are not new. It is said that Hamid, a ‘construction manager’ for the Great Pyramid of Geza project complained to the Pharaoh that the design and quality of the building blocks he was receiving were not conducive to easy construction as they needed too big a labour force, were causing unsafe work practices and putting them in place was taking too long. The Pharaoh, as a result of these complaints, arranged for Hamid to sit down with the block designers and the block suppliers to ensure that the right size of block, of better quality, was produced. Hamid’s constructability reviews must have paid off as research on the design of the pyramids has shown that they are not just a collection of heavy rocks with unknown structures, but incredibly precision-built structures.

Constructability issues generally involve topics like, ‘buildability’, sequence of construction activities and system integration, but should also include materials of construction issues, such as procurement, delivery, storage, preparation, construction and finishing of the materials being used.

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Does Your Project Have ‘Wicked’ Problems?

Project Management, Project Management Methodology, Project Scope Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

A ‘wicked’ problem, with the term first being coined by Horst Rittel in the 1970s, is generally defined as one that is either too difficult to solve or does not have a solution. If you do manage to solve one of these problems, they can cause or reveal other problems: the solution to a wicked problem is itself other problems. As you try to solve this type of problem the understanding of the problem changes.

Because of interrelationships with other problems, wicked problems cannot be solved in a traditional linear fashion, like ‘tame’ problems such as chess or puzzles. A wicked problem must be considered in a systems-thinking way. The well known systems thinker, Russell Ackoff, however, refers to these systems of wicked problems as a ‘mess’. As Laurence J. Peter, founder of the Peter Principle, has said: “Some wicked problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them”.

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Being Happy With Work

Project Management, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Project Managers don’t normally talk about their team members being happy working on projects. They might say that they always encourage employee satisfaction or job satisfaction, but one wonders whether they understand what this means. Being satisfied is important, no doubt, but does being satisfied make one happy?

Many project management companies have shown that it pays to have happy employees and studies have demonstrated that companies with happy employees consistently outperform their less happy competitors. Considering all the challenges that companies face today, creating a happy organisation should be a strong strategic imperative.

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Project Team Obligations

Project Management, Quality Management, HR Management, Project Communications

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

A lot has been written about the responsibilities of a Project Manager, for example, to provide a clear understanding of project objectives, define all roles and responsibilities, review and supervise the execution plan and promote team work. But, what about the obligations of the members of the project team?

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Geodesic Domes and Project Management Teams

Project Management, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Geodesic domes are structures that are strong, stable and yet easily modified. This article points out some of the similarities in properties between geodesic domes and highly efficient project teams.

A few weeks ago, we celebrated the centenary of the invention of Bucky Balls, named after Richard Buckminster Fuller.

He popularized the geodesic dome. Geodesic domes are based on the principle of tensegrity, or tensional integrity, where there is a balance between tension and compression in the components. Tensegrity structures are usually very light, very strong, very efficient and come in a wide variety of shapes. Many of these structures are easily collapsible and thus readily deployable in other shapes for other uses. Their variable shapes and flexibility of purpose are probably their greatest assets.

Like geodesic domes, the composition and form of individual disciplines in a project team are less important than the way in which the disciplines interact and blend together to perform the project work. Some may believe that internal rivalry between disciplines encourages competitiveness and increases productivity. It is the interdependency, co-operation and balance of disciplines, however, that produces value for the project stakeholders.

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Complex and Complicated Projects Can Benefit From Simplicity

Project Management, Time Management, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Some projects are complex in nature with many interdependent and interrelated components. Some projects are complicated with difficult-to-understand and intertwined processes and procedures. And of course, some projects are both complex and complicated.

In these types of projects, the challenge of the project manager is to seek and achieve simplicity. In essence, simplicity in projects is figuring out what to do in a world of multiple choices-it’s deciding what’s important and what can be ignored.

In his book: ‘Simplicity: The New Competitive Advantage’, author Bill Jensen argues that simplicity gives you the power to successfully manage projects by being able to do less (of what doesn’t matter) and to do more (of what does matter).

Simplicity in projects is more about common sense than policies and procedures. It also boils down to where and how you choose to focus your time: you are the only one who controls these things. You also need to ensure that you are allowed to use your personal assets, like your knowledge, energy, passion, ideas and your time, as efficiently as possible and that no unnecessary constraints or restrictions are imposed on you.

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The Success of a Project Depends on the Ability of the Project Team to Organise Itself

Project Management, HR Management, Project Communications

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

A project team can be described as a dynamic system, ever changing as the project proceeds. In nature, such systems are usually self-organising and these can provide us with a good lesson in the management of project teams.

One of the most perplexing questions in physics is: where does order come from? The laws of thermodynamics predict that any dynamic system must eventually come to rest; it must lose all its energy. A moving object will cease moving and will only move again when some force is applied to it. Thermodynamics also predicts that any system will become disordered in time.

Yet, the world contains many systems that maintain their energy and organisation, despite the laws of physics. What is so fascinating is that these organised systems seem to arise spontaneously from disordered conditions: think of how water droplets get together to form a cloud or how a swarm of bees congregates to form a hive. We don’t know how these systems do this but what is clear is that the individual components, often referred to as ‘agents’ in biology, must organise themselves. They have to interact and co-operate with each other and exchange information with their environment. No ‘higher level’, or ‘management’, is there to help them: they have to do it on their own. There are no ‘senior’, ‘chief’ or ‘managing’ agents, just agents! Self-organising systems are very common in nature. They lead to improvement and progress, which evolutionists tell us is the key for the survival of all living species.

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Unlike JF Kennedy, Project Managers Should Not Be Jelly Doughnuts

Project Management, Project Communications

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Language is a powerful instrument and constitutes one of the principal forces controlling and forming human behaviour. Why is it then that, in so many areas of project management, we are destroying the art of language in its broader sense? Email messages, video conferencing, virtual offices, SMS text messages and the plethora of written reports and memoranda are very poor substitutes for face-to-face contacts where gestures, facial expressions and tone complement syntax and understanding.

The language of human beings is unique in the animal word in that the sounds we utter have meaning. Each word we say or write, and how we say and write it, will conjure up a particular meaning for the person with whom we are communicating. We often laugh about misunderstood words but they can have damaging consequences. How much of the poor efficiency in projects is caused by misunderstanding or confusion in language? Not all misunderstood words are seen as funny as was the case with JF Kennedy when he proudly announced during a tour of West Berlin in 1963 said: "Ich bin ein Berliner" which some West Germans took to mean, "I am a jelly doughnut".

In these halcyon days of project team empowerment and participation, and talk of shared visions and values, project managers would do well to realise the importance of language. Information technologists may put their faith in good computer 'language' and 'syntax' and digital communications methods, but these will not produce the benefits brought about by good and properly used human language in the form of conversations and team talks.

Project Managers must realise that the ability to converse meaningfully with their team and project stakeholders is their most valuable skill and the success they achieve at this will be a critical factor in the success of the project.

10 Red Flags That Shout 'Stay Away From This Project!'

IT Project Management, PM Articles, Best Practices

Source: Article by Justin James

Justin James is an employee of Levit & James, Inc. in a multi-disciplinary role that combines programming, network management, and systems administration. He has been blogging at TechRepublic since 2005. Read his full bio and profile.

Over time, I have been involved in some of the worst projects ever as a freelancer, consultant, or some other “non-employee” relationship. When you are a direct hire to a company, you do not have the freedom to pick and choose what you work on. But as an outside person being paid to work specifically on one project, you do have the choice. I have been burned so many times it isn’t funny, but I have learned a lot from my mistakes. Here are 10 of the biggest red flags I’ve encountered. I am sure you have more to share in the discussion thread.

1: No clear spec or goals
All too often, I’ve been approached to work on a project, but the person trying to arrange the deal can’t tell me what they really need done. It’s not that they are under some strange code of silence. They really have no clue what they want. They have a general idea of what the finished product should look like and a really good understanding of its differentiating factors or killer features, but outside of that they have not thought it through. This is one of the most common and most significant danger signs! How many hours’ worth of work do you want to throw away on a regular basis because the client realized after you built it that what they asked for wasn’t what they needed? At the very least, these kinds of projects should be contracted only at a per-hour rate.

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Johnny Cash’s Piece-By-Piece Motor Car

Project Management, Time Management, Project Management Methodology, Project Planning

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

This article uses the song 'One Piece at a Time' by Johnny Cash, where a car is built over 20 years using components from different years, as a metaphor for ensuring that changes in project parameters are properly managed.

Johnny Cash, the well known American Country and Western singer, in a song called One Piece at a Time, recorded in 1979, sings about how he built a big flashy Detroit-type motor car over a period of twenty years. Bit by bit, from one year to another, he took components from the new car factory where he worked and painstakingly assembled them at home. Of course, once he started assembling the car at home he noticed that components changed over the years, some years more chrome, some years different designs, some years bigger, some years smaller. So, as you can imagine, over twenty years the final product was a bit of a mess. For example, the headlights were pretty unusual: “we had two on the left and one on the right, and when we pulled out the switch all three of ‘em come on”. “When we tried to put in the bolts, the holes were gone”. A ’53 transmission was fitted to a ’73 engine.

Medical science might describe Johnny as having the ‘action disorganization syndrome’ where his explicit knowledge of the components (he knew where they fitted) and his ‘temporal order’ (he knew the sequence of fitting the parts) was not matched by his knowledge of change (he did not know that components changed).

Projects are also developed ‘piece-by-piece’: the scope is followed by the WBS; WBSs are followed by activity lists, followed by plans, schedules , cost estimates, S-curves and cost reports; execution is followed up by closure. Knowledge of how the processes to derive these components is critical, as is the sequence in which they have to be undertaken.

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The Role of Value Management When Choices Have to be Made

Value Management, PM Articles, Project Planning

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Decision-making when there are multiple choices can be extremely difficult and can lead to great frustration. There are two types of decision-makers: maximisers, who only want the best and satisficers, who are prepared to accept the good, not necessarily the best.When these sort of decisions have to be made, the discipline of Value Management can be most useful.

Barry Schwartz in his book The Paradox of Choice

relates the ideas of psychologist Herbert Simon from the 1950s to the psychological stress which faces most consumers today. He notes some important distinctions between, what Simon termed, maximisers and satisficers. A maximiser is like a perfectionist, someone who needs to be assured that their every purchase or decision was the best that could be made. The way a maximiser knows for certain is to consider all the alternatives they can imagine. This creates a psychologically daunting task, which can become even more daunting as the number of options increases. The alternative to maximising is to be a satisficer. A satisficer has criteria and standards, but a satisficer is not worried about the possibility that there might be something better that he has not had time to consider.

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Managing Projects With Hearts and Heads

Announcements, PM Articles, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

The University of Washington’s School of Business Administration now offers an executive program on Emotional Intelligence, which it defines as “the ability to regulate emotions in a way that enhances communication and co-operation”. Emotional Intelligence, or EI as it is now being referred to, has its roots in the concept of “social intelligence” first identified in 1920 by EL Thorndike who defined it as “the ability to understand and manage men and women, boys and girls-to act wisely in human relations". EI goes a bit further: it involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others emotions to guide one’s thinking and actions.

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Situational Awareness: A Key Tool For A Project Manager

Project Management, PM Articles

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

As project managers we all know how difficult it is to get things done or to get things done properly. Lack of time is often the excuse given to us. Often, however, our team seems not to know what to do or not even to know what the problem is and what has to be achieved. A person’s ‘situational awareness’, that is, the level of understanding of things happening around them, can affect the completion of a task, especially if the task is complex and dynamic.

Situational awareness is about knowing whats going on so that we can figure out what to do. Situational awareness is a key human performance factor in high risk situations that require critical decision making, such as aviation, air traffic control, surgery, emergency response, strategic business affairs and military combat. In these areas, finely tuned and reliable situational awareness is essential.

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Taking a Systems View of Project Management

Project Management, Project Management Methodology, PM Articles

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Conventional project management methodologies are highly mechanistic and rigid, assuming a world of perfect order and predictability, with little flexibility and tolerance for handling uncertainty and rapidly changing environments. While there has been some movement toward developing more flexible and change-tolerant project management methodologies, mainly in the area of fast-track information technology projects, traditional project management methods are often found wanting for complex projects and rapidly changing environments.

The ‘linearity’ of conventional project management defines upfront the processes to be adhered to, the ‘route map’ to be followed and the tasks to be undertaken. Project workers are selected on this basis, with roles, responsibilities and relationships determined by function, hierarchy and precedent. This approach encourages limited interaction between parties and contextual confusion as project data and information are only channelled to specific recipients, in terms of their defined roles. A major deficiency of conventional project management is that the approach only allows optimisation of the project to be undertaken by the optimisation of the individual project management elements, with little recognition of interactions between the elements.

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Project Teamwork Does not Have To Be An Illusion

Announcements, Project Coaching & Mentoring, PM Articles, Best Practices, HR Management

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Derren Brown is a British illusionist, well known for his startling mind-reading acts shown on television around the world. Although he says his results are a combination of “magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship”, he does appear to be able to predict and influence people’s thoughts with suggestion, manipulation and a great talent for reading body language.

One of his star acts is to get a symphony orchestra playing a piece of music through a conductor who is gagged and has his hands tied. After writing down the name of a piece of music and placing it in a sealed envelope, Derren instructs the orchestra to start playing individually anything they want to but to be aware of what the others are playing and to try to relate musically to them. He also instructs the conductor to mentally focus on a specific piece of music. In the beginning, the sounds emanating from the orchestra are mostly jarring and very unpleasant to listen to, but slowly, as the members of the orchestra better relate to each other, wonderful coherent music is played and it then turns out that the name of the piece is exactly what was written on the paper in the sealed envelope and amazingly exactly what the conductor was thinking of.

To the viewer, these happenings are all quite strange and perhaps a bit scary too. Does Derren hypnotise both the conductor and the orchestra or is it just cheating and showmanship for the sake of good TV ratings? Without getting to understand everything that’s going on, it is most apparent that the members of the orchestra, who are trained to work together, were able to combine their individual musical outpourings so as to converge and produce a good piece of symphonic music.

Effective teamwork is not an illusion, with collaboration producing results that would not have been possible without a team. We have gone beyond those days where people achieved great results on their own, like Einstein, Newton and Michael Faraday, or where project managers were totally autocratic. In today’s world of projects, where action is critical, individuals may have their own ideas about the way the project should be undertaken but it is very unlikely that they can implement these on their own. The ability of project teams to turn the project scope and shared knowledge into the project deliverable is the cornerstone of project management.

The concept of a team can, however, often be an illusion. Teams are set up in an autocratic fashion, thinking that if we call it a team and appoint what we think are team players, then by hook or by crook it must be a team and it better perform or else. As Ram Charan (Know-How) has described it: getting people to align their ideas in a team environment is a lot like herding cats. You put a lot of energy into it and they still do as they damn well please. How to produce effective project teams has been written about in hundreds of PM books and papers. Yet, it would appear that most teams are not all that effective. In essence, teams often fail because the ‘social system’ of the team and the organisation are either not understood or ignored. Every company and every project team within the company has a ‘social system’, which can best be described by the ways in which people come together to do their work.

Like a symphony orchestra, they meet; they develop relationships with each other and in doing so they influence each other. How they work together creates energy and determines what decisions and trade-offs must be made.
Like many projects, Derren Brown’s conductor and orchestra started out with nothing. But, by listening to each other they were able to share energy, harmonise their decision making and produce a collaborative effort. How Derren Brown knew what they were going to play, however, remains a mystery!

Are Good Project Managers Just Lucky?

Project Management, Project Management Methodology, PM Articles, Best Practices

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

Some people say jokingly, or perhaps not so jokingly, that there are no good project managers - only lucky ones. It could be that these people use the phrase as a ‘catch all’, when they really don’t know why or how they succeeded. It may also be the case that post implementation project reviews can get very complex, with so many factors having to be discussed and rationalised, that it’s easier and less time consuming to call upon luck as the explanation of a well undertaken project.

Calling a project manager lucky at the end of a successful project could fail to acknowledge all the hard work and leadership skills that the project manager injected into the project. This hard work might have put the project manager into the position to take advantage of opportunities (perhaps these could have been ‘lucky’ or random events) when these occurred. They took advantage of the moment and succeeded.

Project management success isn’t about being in the right place at the right time, i.e. being ‘lucky’, it’s about doing the right things in the right place at the right time, and in the right sequence. It’s about seizing opportunities that present themselves: it’s the intersection point of opportunity and preparation. As Gary Player - the South African Golfing Master once said: “the harder I work, the luckier I get”.

Read more about Gary Player here.

Read what Donald Trump has to say on the same subject

Project Management is Knowledge Management

Project Management, PM Articles

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

The exciting economic and developmental opportunities, brought about by globalization and driven by new technology, have provided an enormous thrust to the discipline of project management. Wherever one looks these days, there are projects, big and small and in many different areas and countries, being planned or executed. The job of a project manager has become a very sought after career.

Apart from all the huge construction projects, where adherence to sound project management principles is essential, a culture of project management is also growing in all walks of life. In his latest book, Re-Imagine, Tom Peters has suggested that all work will become project work and there will be no role for people performing de facto chores, there will be not be any room for ‘cubicle slaves’, as he calls them. We live in a world where there has to be action and delivery and the methodology of project management is well suited for this.

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What To Do About Uncertainty

Project Risk Management, PM Articles

Source: Article by Bob Andrew

The continuous identification, assessment and management of risks and threats that could influence project deliverables is an important part of a project manager’s life. The main source of risks and threats is uncertainty.

The concept of uncertainty has been debated for many centuries by philosophers, religious people, physicists, economists, financiers, statisticians, astronomers, engineers and information scientists. Each sees uncertainty in subtly different ways, e.g. physicists view uncertainty as a fundamental property of quantum mechanics, portrayed mainly by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal, which states that precise simultaneous measurement of more than one physical property of an atomic particle is impossible. Unlike most of the other fields, e.g. statistics and engineering, uncertainty is not brought about by errors in measurements, but is a rather a fundamental property of nature itself. Quantum Mechanics is the field of study that has scientifically developed this concept and has provided the basis for the invention of the Laser, TV and a large number of digital gadgets.

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Living in an Unpredictable World

Project Risk Management, PM Articles

Source - Article by Bob Andrew

We human beings think largely in a deterministic manner. We try to understand the present by looking back to the past, believing that everything that is happening to us now was caused by things that happened in the past. In a similar way, we believe that what happens to us now, in the present, will form our future. We often tend to view life like a deterministic mathematical model, with sets of differential equations measuring the rate of change over time, all happening over an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. Of course, deep down inside of us, we know life is not at all like this, imagine how dull it would be, but often we think and act as if it were so.

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10 Ways to Get Back in the Game After a Layoff

Project Coaching & Mentoring, IT Project Management, PM Articles, HR Management

Source: Article by Justin James

Justin James is an employee of Levit & James, Inc. in a multi-disciplinary role that combines programming, network management, and systems administration. He has been blogging at TechRepublic since 2005. Read his full bio and profile.

Looking for work is only part of what you need to do when you get laid off. Justin James offers some advice for moving forward instead of sinking into the unemployment abyss.

The document can be downloaded as a pdf here. You will need to register with TechRepublic.

"When you’ve lost your job, there is a certain expectation from those who have never been unemployed that looking for work is a full-time gig. The reality is, after the first few weeks, it’s mostly a waiting game: The resume is updated and posted to job boards, you’ve established your various search agents, and you have talked to all the relevant recruiters in the area. So what else can you do with your time to help you get back to work as quickly as possible? These tips will point you in the right direction."

1: Catch up on your learning
Something I hear time and time again from IT pros is that technology is constantly advancing, but too few jobs give you the training to keep up — and it is just overwhelming to try to stay abreast while working a full time job. This is the perfect time to get caught up on those technologies! Of course, you will want to stick with the ones that require less up-front cost. Your unemployment office may even be able to help get you training. Not only will this keep you from getting bored, but it will give you some talking points in interviews and possibly some new skills to add to your resume. In addition, it looks great to an interviewer that you are the kind of person who keeps learning and growing, even when you are unemployed.

2: Work for free
One of the best things you can do for yourself right now is to start donating some of your skills and time to an open source project or a local charity or to perhaps start a personal project of your own. This will give you the opportunity to do some new things and explore different career directions, and it can also help you network. And who knows, maybe it will blossom into some sort of paid work. At the very least, you will know that you are doing something that helps someone else out and gaining more experience that will enhance your resume.

3: Be flexible on compensation
In a recession economy, you probably don’t have the luxury of holding out for more money than a job offer is for. In my area, for example, there are a fair number of jobs out there, but the pay is about $10,000 less than it was a few years ago. If you want to get back to work quickly, you are going to have to recognize this and be willing to take less money than you were making before, even if you were underpaid at your previous job. A few people with in-demand skills or rare experience may be able to push for a better compensation package, but you need to be realistic about whether you are one of them.

4: Expand your comfort zone
I recently talked to someone who was hungry for some work about giving him a small contract. It was nothing major, but it would have helped him out. He turned me down because even though he was skilled in that general line of work, he had no experience in the exact work I was asking him for. That really is the wrong attitude to have, and it will cost you in this economy. Let’s say you are a system administrator and you have been using Linux for a long time. If someone offers you a job, but their shop uses BSD, you are probably much better off trading your penguin for a little red daemon than holding out a few more months (or longer) for a Linux job. Some folks are very much in demand and have the freedom to stick only with the things they know well. But for most IT pros, being willing to work with a tech you are not familiar with (or maybe even dislike) is a necessity unless you have deep financial reserves you can rely upon.

5: Exercise
Let’s face it: IT jobs are awful for our health, particularly our waistlines. We all know we should work out more, but we rarely do. This is a great time to get in shape, and all you need are some ratty old clothes, comfortable sneakers, and motivation — you don’t even need a gym membership for a basic exercise routine! Why exercise? For one thing, it will help relieve some of the stress you are probably feeling about your employment and financial situation. But it can also help in other ways. It will help you with your self-confidence and self-esteem, which shine through in interviews. And when you return to work, it is easier to sit at a desk for long hours when you are in shape than when you are not.

6: Get certified
One of the common themes in the IT industry is that the workers in the trenches have little regard for more IT certifications. I generally share this viewpoint (although there are exceptions ,of course). But the gatekeepers in the hiring process, like HR and recruiters, place a fairly high value on IT certifications. A certification can make the difference between getting an interview and not getting one. Many states’ unemployment systems have programs that may be able to assist you to get certified; you will want to talk with an unemployment agent and find out what your options are.

7: Become a consultant
Just because companies are laying off employees does not mean that they are not getting anything done. Many times, the decision to cut headcount is motivated by stock price issues (apparently, laying people off raises stock prices) or the costs associated with a full-time employee, not a lack of work. As a result, many companies are laying off employees while hiring consultants and contractors to fill the gaps left by the layoffs. This can provide you with an opportunity to go into consulting work, either for yourself or as a member of a firm. I’ve noticed that the more specialized your knowledge, the better your chances of getting a consultant gig. The odds of landing consultant work also go up when your skills are applicable to one-off projects, not just long-term operations.

8: Consider going abroad
I know, “There’s no place like home,” wherever that might be for you. At the same time, international companies often have a number of jobs in other countries, which they prefer to be done by someone from their home country (or a country in which they have a regional headquarters). There are a number of reasons why a company might need to hire into an expatriate position, but they are usually hard to fill and often pay quite well. Being willing to spend some time overseas not only opens up more jobs to you, but it also will give you a chance to travel. And in many cases, the employer handles your lodging overseas (and even if they do not, it is often quite inexpensive), so unlike a domestic move, you don’t have to worry about trying to sell your house.

9: Don’t neglect your networking
No, I don’t mean TCP/IP and Cat5e cable. I mean talking to other people. Stay in touch with former co-workers and they may pass along word of a position. Another great place to learn about open jobs is at a local user’s group for the technologies you are interested in. Also, sign up for their mailing list! At my local .NET user group, there are frequent job announcements, and the local Ruby group’s mailing list often contains job postings. Even if you don’t hear about a job, you can get a better idea of what the job market is like, which companies are likely to be hiring soon, and so on.

10: Go beyond the job boards
Not all companies post their open positions on the job boards, but they do post them on their own Web sites. Yes, it is a huge hassle to register with dozens of individual companies. At the same time, you are avoiding the issues with the job boards too, like scam sales jobs disguised as real jobs, multiple recruiters trying to hire for the same position, and whatnot. In addition, you actually know what company you are applying to, which is getting rather rare on the job boards. Think of the companies you would like to work for and see if they have jobs on their sites in your area or in a city you would be willing to move to. You will greatly expand your pool of jobs to look at, and if the company does not post these jobs on the job boards, you probably have much less competition for the jobs as well.

Micro-manage A Project Team?

Project Management

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

"What if they assign you to a critical project that will really affect your career and you don't want anything to "fall between the cracks"? Watching every little detail is the way to go, right?"

Micromanagement is the dominant style used by project managers though it does not yield the best results or even provide tight control

Read the whole article here.

Your Organization Culture Influences Your Project Management Success

Project Management, PM Articles

Source: TenStep Article by Tom Mochal

There are a number of organizational factors that support or inhibit the ability of your project managers to be successful. Granted, “culture” is a broad term, but your organizational culture plays the biggest role in whether or not you are generally able to deliver projects successfully. You cannot attack a culture of mediocrity (or a culture of failure) one project at a time. You need to address it in a broad and multi-faceted way. Your organization structure can also help or hinder your success rate. Your organization structure can determine how well you focus on projects and how easy it is to share resources between different organizations. If you attack the broader cultural problems, you will have a positive impact on many of the organizational barriers to success as well.

It should come as no shock to learn that some organizations are better than others at managing projects. There are probably no organizations that have a 100% success rate, and hopefully none have a 0% success rate. However, some organizations definitely perform at a higher level than others.

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The Pragmatic Manager: Who's in Charge of Quality?

IT Project Management, PM Articles, Best Practices

Source & Content Detail: e-Mail Newsletter from the Rothman Consulting Group President - Johanna Rothman.

About the Author:
Johanna Rothman is a pragmatic thinker about project management, the founder and principal of Rothman Consulting Group and author and co-author of several books and numerous articles. She is passionate about helping technical managers, solving problems and has an interesting sense of humor.

Back Issues of the newsletters can be found here.

"At the Agile 2010 conference a couple of weeks ago, I heard many people say, "When QA gets the software, ..." In an agile project, that makes no sense to me, unless the team has not developed its own definition of done.

In more traditional projects, the people in the testing group, whatever that group is called, often make the decision about whether or not to release the software. With these statements and decision-making power, you might think that the testers are in charge of quality.

They are not."

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"Fast-Food" Project Management

Project Management, IT Project Management, Best Practices

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

When our project planning with customers is like letting them order at a fast-food drive-up window, we get an endless list of requirements. Then we can't control scope, finish on time or produce any business value. Customers may be happy when we start fast but are dissatisfied at the end when they get of value.

Read the whole article here.

Should You Factor Positive Risk into Project Planning?

Best Practices, Project Scope Management

Source: TenStep Article by Tom Mochal

Even though you may commonly think of project risks as having a negative connotation, you can also use risk management to identify and quantify potential positive risk. You can determine if you want to accept the risk after understanding the risk plan, the chances of success, the payoff if you are successful and the impact if you are not successful.

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Gathering Project Requirements

PM Articles, Best Practices, Project Planning, Project Communications, Project Scope Management

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

How you gather project requirements affects the amount of scope creep on the project and the odds of finishing on time and within budget. It also determines whether you have happy stakeholders.

Read the whole article here.

The Role of a Project Manager

Project Management

Source: Method123 - MPMM Project Methodology

The role of a Project Manager is to "Deliver the project on time, within budget and to specification". So in other words, you need to specify clearly upfront what must be delivered by the project, and then you need to produce it within the schedule and budget assigned. But it's not that simple. You might meet this objective but totally fail as a "top notch Project Manager". We believe your role is much more than that. It is also...

1: To recruit the best
Great projects are delivered by a great team. Your role is to recruit the best people you can find and make sure that their skill sets are perfectly complimentary so that you have all of the experience you need to deliver the project successfully. You need to document a detailed Job Description for every person in your team so that they all know what is expected of them, at every step in the journey. Only with a great team and everyone knowing what is expected of them, will you deliver a great result.

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Why Do So Many Projects Fail?

Project Management, Project Planning

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Project failure is not always the fault of the Project Manager. Most of the lessons learnt analysis we do identify problems with the performance of executives and team members as well. The solution is an organisation wide methodology with clear roles for everyone and some coaching by Project Managers.

Read the whole article here

WBS: Project Design Issue or Clerical Task

PM Articles, Best Practices

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

The WBS is often the launching pad for project failure because people think it is a "to do" list and bigger is better.

Read the whole article here

Communicate Proactively Based on Your Project Size

Best Practices, Progress Meetings, Project Communications, Project Reporting

Source: TenStep Article by Tom Mochal

Communication - Just Do It!

Project managers must get over the fear and reluctance to communicate proactively. Communication is a powerful arrow in your project management quiver. I have seen projects where the project manager thought he had done a good job, but the client was not satisfied because he or she did not know what was going on. I have also seen projects that went badly over budget and deadline, but were still viewed as a success, because the client knew what was going on and the expectations were managed well.

You have all heard the simple saying, “communicate, communicate, communicate”. Project managers should take this to heart. There are many aspects of a project that are not totally within your hands. Communication, however, is something that is directly within your control. You might be surprised how smoothly your project progresses when you communicate proactively to the team, clients and stakeholders.

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Status Reports and Status Meetings

Time Management, Best Practices, Progress Meetings, Project Communications, Project Reporting

Source: TenStep Article by Tom Mochal

Practice Good Meeting Fundamentals
In general, all meetings should have an agenda. The creation of the agenda takes a little extra work, but it can be as simple as writing it in an email and sending it to the meeting participants. Regularly scheduled, ongoing status meetings do not necessarily need a published agenda every week if they stick to the same agenda format. In those cases, the formal agenda is of most value while the team is first meeting. Once everyone understands the purpose and the regular flow, the standard agenda model can be reused every time. Other meeting considerations include:

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When are Full-Time or Contract Resources the Best Fit for your Team?

Project Risk Management, PM Articles, HR Management

Source: TenStep Article by Tom Mochal

It is important to consider your particular situation, such as position openings and your company’s staffing philosophy, when deciding what type of staffing to use. Consider some of the pros and cons of each option, and then discuss this matter further with your manager. One company may choose to fill a position with an employee, while another company fills the exact same position with a contractor. Much of the decision depends on the company’s current staffing strategy. Once you better understand that, as well as the characteristics of the opening you have, you should be able to determine how to fill your particular positions.

The first place to start is with some perspective at a higher level. It is hard to provide advice about whether a contractor or employee should be utilized on a particular without knowing something about the staffing strategy for your whole company. Some companies do not want to utilize contract labor at all. However, most companies use contract staff when it makes sense, based on their staffing philosophy. There are both pros and cons to using employees and contract staff. After considering these, you will be able to have an intelligent discussion with your manager about what type of staffing makes sense for your particular circumstances.

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Frustration Culture - Your Company's Actions Do Not Live Up to Its Lofty Principles

HR Management

Source: TenStep Article by Tom Mochal

Believe it or not, there are many fine companies in the world that have great products and treat their employees well. There are also many companies that are just plain rotten. Of course, most companies fall somewhere in the middle.
One of the reasons that employees don’t like working at their companies is that their companies are not intellectually honest with them. They say one thing and do another thing. They have lofty ideals or principles on paper, but then they do not follow through and actually implement policies and processes to back up their words. This disconnect can happen within a team, within a department, within a division or within an entire organization.

Full story »

The stadium showdown: Soccer City vs Bird's Nest

Project Management, Construction Project Management, Benchmarking

Source: Article by Terence Creamer

Any doubts about the building prowess of South Africa's construction industry were dispelled decisively by the impressive delivery of the World Cup stadiums ahead of the 2010 FIFA tournament, which reached its dramatic conclusion late on Sunday night when Spain snatched a dramatic, late winner against the Netherlands at Soccer City.

However, a comparison offered by the Aveng Group's Dr Hylton Macdonald at a recent Engineering and Construction Risk Institute conference, coincidentally held in Madrid, Spain, provided insight not only of the domestic industry's technical competence, but also its relative competitiveness.

In a colourful slide presentation entitled, ‘The makings of a successful project', Macdonald analysed how "Soccer City stacks up against China's Bird's Nest Stadium".

The comparison between the two iconic structures makes for interesting reading.

Small Project Risk Management

Project Risk Management

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Prevention: Not Lots of Paperwork
A few minutes of risk management on even the smallest project gets a good return for the effort. We just need to scale risk management so the payback is proportional to the cost. Here is are 3 tier approach for projects of different scale and significance.

Project Approval Games: Three Fantasies

Project Management, PM Articles

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Multiple Project Approval Fantasy Land
Both Executives and Project Managers kid themselves about what goes on in a project approval process. Let's look at two Executive fantasies and one PM fantasy and see how they cripple a Project.

Be Wary of Vendor References, But Use them to Your Advantage


Source: TenStep Article by Tom Mochal

If you are considering purchasing a software or hardware product from a vendor, you are going to perform some sort of evaluation. Of course, the amount of time you spend doing due-diligence is directly related to the investment you are making in the product. Purchasing a simple scheduling package that costs $2,000 may not require the same level of diligence as a Customer Relationship Management package that costs over $1,000,000.
One of the activities that should be on your evaluation checklist is talking to companies that currently use the product. The purpose of checking references is to get past the marketing and sales hype and hear some real opinions. The theory is that these companies will give you a more honest picture of how the product and the vendor actually perform in the real world.

Full story »

Managing Contractors

Project Management, Best Practices

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Managing Contractors
There are lots of ways to work with vendors on your projects and several contract types to choose from. But the best of all is a performance & achievement "triangle" that ties contractors to the project with the right incentives and penalties.

Check Your Project for These Four Warning Signs

Project Management, Project Risk Management, Best Practices

Source: TenStep Article by Tom Mochal

Obviously your project is in trouble if you are missing deadlines and consistently exceeding the estimated effort and cost to get work done. However, you may have a project that actually appears to be on schedule, yet you are concerned about potential problems down the road. There are things that you can look for that will give some sense as to whether there are potential problems lurking. At this point you cannot really call them issues or problems, but they can be identified as risks that have the potential to throw your project off in the future.

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Moments of Truth and marching Behind the Elephant

Project Management, PM Articles

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Project Team
The difference between a high performance team and one that performs poorly is often determined by three moments of truth [MOT] with the Project Team. Handled properly, these MOT's produce team members who actually try to finish assignments early and who take responsibility for solving problems and figuring out better, faster ways of completing their assignments.

The PMO exists at the intersection of Business and Project Management

Announcements, Project Portfolio Management, Project Management Office

Source: Article written by Ron Holohan, MBA PMP - an extract from the pm411 Project Management Podcast Episode 054: The complete PMO (part 1 of 2, which can be downloaded here.

PMO's were originally created to help support the technical function within an organization. However since that time, the function of a PMO has grown to include more business management. Ideally, a PMO within an organisation is situated to deal with both the project management environment as well as the business environment. On the project management side, there are the project executives, the project management, the technical members on the team and the PMO. On the business side, you have the business units and clients or customers that the PMO helps to represent.

Five Progressive stages of the PMO Competency Continuum:

There are five progressive and advancing stages of maturity for a PMO’s capability and responsibility.

Stage 1 of PMO maturity is The Project Office. This is a essentially the project manager and project team working as a project office. This project office provides its own oversight of project.

The Stage 2 PMO, called The Basic PMO, contains process control in addition to project oversight. The Basic PMO provides a full-cycle and repeatable process that can be used across all projects in an organization. The Basic PMO would most likely be led by a program manager and might have several project managers and projects involved.

The Stage 3 PMO, called The Standard PMO, is the level that most organizations need and want to have. This level includes project control, oversight, as well as support. The Standard PMO creates the infrastructure and capabilities to support a cohesive project management environment. The Standard PMO has multiple projects, project managers, and perhaps even program managers under its control. The head of the Standard PMO is usually a program director or senior program manager.

Stage 4 is The Advanced PMO where business processes are truly integrated with project management processes. This stage includes dedicated staff, including a PMO director that oversees the technical and business aspects of the project management environment.

The final stage, Stage 5, is The Center of Excellence. Here is where you manage continuous improvement and project management process implementation across the organization for the purpose of achieving strategic organizational goals.

The Hidden Costs and Dangers of the Shortcut

Project Management, Project Risk Management, Project Planning

Source: Article by Michelle LaBrosse, PMP - Founder of Cheetah Learning

We live in a world where we are often pressured to take shortcuts to save time
and cut costs as much as possible. However, if you’re not a skilled and
experienced project manager, the wrong shortcut could end up costing you a lot

Gantthead.com - The Return of the Project Manager

Project Management, IT Project Management, PM Articles

Source: Article by Jacqueline Dasso Haddad, PMP - Senior Product Manager, Microsoft

My fellow community members, I have a confession to make. For the last several years I have shied away from a project manager title for fear that I would be pigeonholed. We have all been there, limited in what people think we actually do based on a title. Now let’s look at this past year. The economy tanked, many of us lost a good portion of our savings and unemployment continues to hover around 10 percent. So what is a project manager to do today as many companies have held off on hiring and starting many projects for that matter? The answer is use this time to hone our skills, discover new roles that really require a project manager to be successful and learn how to market (or “re-market”) our skills for a changing economy. Whether you are a seasoned project manager, a self proclaimed PM or finding yourself wanting to enter the profession, read on. Although I never claim to have all the answers, I hope this article will offer a different perspective as well as a bit of hope.

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4PM.com - Project Planning - The Really Creative and Highly Political First Step

Project Management, Project Planning

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Project Planning
The very traits and talents that earn people their promotion to Project Management often prove to be the barriers to effective project planning. Poorly done planning leads an otherwise talented Project Manager to a project riddled with dissatisfied customers, overruns and lost credibility. We'll look at a project planning session and the typical mistakes project managers make by getting carried away with the technical details and falling into the activity trap. Then we'll look at the "best practices" way of conducting project planning and the kind of big picture thinking that's required for success.

Does Your Project Need a Quality Process or Quality Activities?

Best Practices, Quality Management

Source: TenStep Article by Tom Mochal

Quality management processes must be scaled to the size of the project. Remember that there is a cost to managing quality, as well as a benefit. The effort and time required to manage quality must not exceed the overall value that you expect to gain from the process.

Quality management requires an investment of time and resources. However, you make this investment with the belief that your project and your deliverables will be of higher quality in the future. This higher quality, in turn, will lead to less rework and a more satisfied client. The basic value proposition for quality management is that you will save more cost and time over the life of your project than the cost and time required to set up and manage the quality management process.

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4PM.com - Influencing, Persuading and Selling in Project Management

Project Management, PM Articles, Best Practices

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Selling Projects
Project managers need soft skills and effective techniques to secure approval and gain support from stakeholders and commitment from their team. The foundation is an understanding of what business benefits the executives value.

HR should put PMP in Proper Perspective

Project Management, IT Project Management

Source: TechRepublic - by Brad Egeland

"Brad takes issue with HR departments that overlook qualified project manager applicants simply because they aren’t PMP certified."

The feedback I hear from project manager job seekers is that some HR organizations are weeding out any applicants who don’t have their Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. I think this is a lazy hiring practice. I understand that these organizations sometimes get 10,000 applicants for one position, but HR might be overlooking great project managers with years of successful experience leading projects simply because they don’t have this certification.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t think the PMP is a valuable certification; I believe that any certification is good because it shows dedication to your profession. However, not having a certification doesn’t automatically mean you aren’t a good candidate to manage a project.

So, to put the cert in more concrete terms, this is what it takes to achieve the PMP certification:

* 35 hours of verifiable project management-related training
* 5 years of verifiable hands-on project management experience
* Successful completion of the PMP certification exam (must correctly answer 61% of scored questions)

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4PM.com - Most Popular Articles

PM Articles, Best Practices

Source: Articles by Dick Billows of 4PM

Multiple Project Fantasy Land
Projects multiply like weeds in an organization, they devour the time of technical staff and line supervisors leaving little time for people's "real jobs." Yet despite a project failure rate that can inch past 70%, some executives and project managers continue to live in a fantasy land. Let's look at the fantasies and then the survival techniques you should use in a project dense organization.

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The Blending of Traditional & Agile Project Management

Project Management, Project Management Methodology, IT Project Management

Source: PM Forum Articles

An Article written by Kathleen B. Hass for Project Management World Today. A pdf to download.
Published in PM World Today - May 2007 (Vol. IX, Issue V)

Agile Work - Core Practices & Axioms

Project Management, Project Management Methodology, IT Project Management

Source: Agile Advice by Mishkin Berteig

Agile Work consists of seven core practices. These practices form a solid starting point for any person, team or community that wishes to follow the Middle Way to Excellence.

The Seven Core Practices. An insight into how Agile Work is performed.

Agile Axioms & Practices. A pdf to download

Agile Work uses Lean Thinking. A pdf to download

Agile vs. Waterfall Teams

Project Management, Project Management Methodology, IT Project Management

A little flash video of an Agile team vs a Waterfall Project Development Team. The message: Join the agile revolution - it appears to be better and more flexible.

If you have difficulty in rendering the video, you will find it here

What Can we Learn from IT, HR, Soft Skills Projects?

Announcements, Project Management, Project Management Methodology, Benchmarking

It has become clear to me that Project Management in the "brick and mortar" game [Construction of large Infrastructure related projects such as buildings, dams, bridges, roads etc..., or Minerals Extraction projects such as mines, processing plants, smelters etc...] has not got the monopoly on Project Management skills, methodologies or systems.

A number of new approaches, techniques, skills and systems can be found in the softer sciences or endeavours - such as those in HR, IT, NGO's Project Management. Techniques being used such as Agile Development, SCRUM and Timeboxing may well prove to be superior approaches than that used in traditional PMBok or PRINCE methodologies

I will be investigating these in more detail in 2010 - watch this space.

Len Pretorius

What is benchmarking?

Project Management, Benchmarking

Source: TenStep Tom Mochal

Benchmarking is the ongoing process of improving performance by identifying, understanding, and adapting outstanding practices and processes found inside and outside the organization.
The following are five common myths about benchmarking:

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The Payoff of Integrating Requirements Management with PLM

Value Management, Project Portfolio Management

Source: Catia Community Feature written by Don Creswell

Welcome to ValuePoint™, a column featuring tips and techniques for improving the economic value of New Product Development (NPD).

This first column concentrates on what I call “The Missing Element in PLM”: getting a handle on the expected economic value to be created by investments in new products, enhanced products, and product portfolios.

PLM – Product Life Cycle Management – addresses virtually everything that needs to be managed to conceive of, develop, and bring a product to market. The scope of PLM is immense: from innovation to computer aided design (CAD), to computer aided engineering (CAE), to project/portfolio management (PPM) and on and on. But, there seems to be a missing element: where does management address the fundamental question: what is the bottom line result of doing all this?

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The Role of the Project Manager

Project Management

The project manager, in the broadest sense of the term, is the most important person for the success or failure of a project. The project manager is responsible for planning, organizing and controlling the project. In turn, the project manager receives authority from the management of the organization to mobilize the necessary resources to complete a project.

The project manager must be able to exert interpersonal influence in order to lead the project team. The project manager often gains the support of his/her team through a combination of the following:

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Time, Information and Energy

Time Management

Three resources are required to accomplish any given task; information (knowledge); work (energy) and time. These three resources are interrelated; e.g. we use less energy if we do something slowly and require more information and knowledge if we don’t have enough time. Remember the call in the USA during the oil crisis in the seventies for drivers to drive more slowly (55mph) so as to conserve the energy in their petrol. At the extremes we may think of a thoughtful retired philosopher who has a lot of time and knowledge and uses little energy to accomplish a task; primitive man who used lots of time and energy doing things because he had no knowledge of labour saving devices and our modern technological society where there is lots of information, knowledge and energy but very little time.

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History of Project Management


Projects, loosely defined as single endeavours that utilise resources with definite starting and finishing dates, have been undertaken for thousands of years. Emerging technologies of the time have been used to create unique and wonderful outcomes, structures like the pyramids, bridges and various machines. People have also undertaken projects to embark on great expeditions and journeys like circumnavigating the world, discovering new lands and conquering distant and challenging places. These were all forms of projects that required initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing.

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