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Thursday, November 15, 2012

#029 - Pick Me! Pick Me! ...What is YOUR Essential Value Proposition?

When my father graduated from university and got his first job as an Electrical Engineer, his manager told him the following on his first day:

"Congratulations on earning your degree. But I want you to know the only thing it shows me is that you know how to learn."

My father was stunned. He had worked hard to get his degree over several long years; surely all of what he had learned counted for something! Engineering was a hard degree to get and covered a lot of knowledge areas in depth...what was his manager talking about?

For the manager, my father's value proposition was the potential for a future of great contributions to the company, based on his educational focus and demonstrated ability to learn complex things (provided he continued to apply himself and work hard, of course). To be sure, the company must have seen value or they would not have hired my father in the first place - but it was still a shock for him to hear that message on his first day.

My father didn't tell me what he was thinking before he entered the office, but that first meeting with his manager had a profound effect on him. I even believe it was a defining moment for him. It forced him to look forward - to what he could do with and for the company, rather than dwell on his prior accomplishments.

What you have done is not as important as what you will do next. The past only shows what you were capable of then; it merely lays the groundwork for what you might become on your journey.

Image licensed from Fotolia #45593398

For many of us, our value proposition is often quite different than what we think it is. In fact, our value is always defined more by the other person (the receiver of your services) than by you (the giver of the service).

They want to know what YOU can do for them, and how you can help them solve their needs and problems. This is your Value to them.

But there is much, much more to it than that...  

Listen to the podcast, or read the full article on Gazza's Corner blog.   

Saturday, November 3, 2012

#028 - From the Playground to the Olympics: What NOT to do in Team Development

"I got here first!"

"No, I did!"


"No, me!"

I just got back from a three day school camp with my youngest son. We  went to new and interesting places each day, and everywhere we went, walking or driving, the adults were constantly serenaded by the same chorus when we arrived at each destination.

"I got here first!"

Somehow, it seemed vitally important to be the first one to arrive wherever we went, or at least it was if you were under 10 years old.

The playground is a useful place to hone skills and promote competition, but it is equally important to learn to work and compete together as a team.

Often, when children compete in teams, you will have individuals claiming they were the fastest in the team, and therefore they are the reason the team won - so really "they" won and the rest of the team's efforts did not matter. 

Unfortunately, some people never outgrow this. They are in constant competition with everyone else, even though the others may not even know there is a race going on. They may not say it out loud, but they likely feel a small satisfaction in reaching the traffic light first, so they can be ready to launch off again - first - as soon as it turns green.

Even as adults, some people within teams will promote their personal contributions to the detriment of the team - just like back on the playground, they believe that they (and themselves alone) are the real reason the team succeeded.

It is true that one person can make a difference.

It is also true that one person can help to bring a team together - or destroy it.

Fortunately, most people do outgrow these playground behaviors, and become great team players. There is hope!

Listen to the podcast, or read the full article on Gazza's Corner blog.   

Friday, October 12, 2012

#027 - Whole Brain Team Development: An Interview with Lynne Schinella

Today's interview is with Lynne Schinella, an expert on building “whole brain” organizations and teams.

Lynne Schinella is an authority on masterful communication in the 21st century.  She believes that at the heart of all great communication are 3 elements: empathy, understanding and respect for diversity. No stranger to these qualities, she discovered their great power early on in life. 

Before starting Schinella Incentives in 1991 and then Ripe Learning in 2001, Lynne worked at Qantas, Continental Airlines, UTA French Airlines, Hyatt and Radisson Hotels and experienced a wide range of cultures and religions rich in eclectic experience. She studied how the Tahitians, French and Chinese carved out an existence through respecting their differences when she lived in Tahiti for 3 years. Over the years, she has learned that the most successful teams are the most diverse, and able to acknowledge their differences and build on trust through their strengths.

Lynne’s workshops and keynotes have a strong message of understanding and celebrating our differences, whether personality, gender, culture, generation or anything else.

She is the author of Bite Me and other do's and dont's of dealing with our differences, but in front of an audience her real gift is in her practical down to earth approach, her willingness to be transparent and a talent for making the complex simple and relevant.

Join us and listen to Lynne Schinella as she discusses the four behavioural "fruit types" - Apple, Mango, Lime and Banana - and learn why it is so important that your teams are a "fruit salad".

Lynne Schinella
Twitter: @lynneschinella

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

#026 - Project Pain Management: The Good, The Bad and the Useful

Definition of PAIN

a : a state of physical, emotional, or mental lack of well-being or physical, emotional, or mental uneasiness that ranges from mild discomfort or dull distress to acute often unbearable agony, may be generalized or localized, and is the consequence of being injured or hurt physically or mentally or of some derangement of or lack of equilibrium in the physical or mental functions (as through disease), and that usually produces a reaction of wanting to avoid, escape, or destroy the causative factor and its effects <was in constant pain> 

b : a basic bodily sensation that is induced by a noxious stimulus, is received by naked nerve endings, is characterized by physical discomfort (as pricking, throbbing, or aching), and typically leads to evasive action

Source: Miriam-Webster (

Everyone has experienced pain of some kind. Most project managers have experienced pain on projects as well - and if you haven't yet, you must be just getting started in your career. Pain can come in many forms - physical pain, mental distress, concern and worry over things that you may (or may not) have any control over.  In fact, pain can be good for you, as it is principally designed as a protection mechanism. Brush your hand against a hot frying pan? Your body quickly tells you to get yourself away by triggering pain sensors. Step on a nail or cut yourself? Pain tells you to stop doing what you are doing and take care of your injury.

But not all pain is the same. Some pain says "Stop that!" and yet some pain you need to ignore, like runners pushing through to get their second wind.

In early 2005, I damaged my right knee - I tore my meniscus. The pain while walking right after the injury was quite bad - but of course, I still had to walk. Before I could start Physio, I had to take a flight back to the head office. Walking from the farthest gate to the main terminal was a very, very long and painful process. From there I caught one of those courtesy trams that go from gate to gate. The entire trip was measured in short walking distances and rest spots, and Naproxen was on the daily menu for a while.

I returned from the trip to my project in the US and started Physio, which helped a lot, but I still had regular pain through the next year, if I overdid it or stood too long in one position. Once the inflammation settled down, walking was Ok - but standing was not, as it put pressure in mainly one spot. But I managed, and started to get better and much more mobile - once again measuring walks in miles/km instead of dozens of feet or minutes standing up.

In 2006 I twisted my left knee when I fell into a hole, damaging it as well. You think I would have been smarter and re-injured the bad knee, but no. The pain from this injury was quite different - and worse. Walking or standing was painful for any duration or distance. But I got along, by not walking too much and avoiding standing still for very long. I went to the doctor - and was put on a waiting list for an MRI in Vancouver. I waited for 14 months, and finally had the scan. Then I had to wait a few more months to see the specialist who went over the results. The whole time my knees (both of them acting up in sympathy for each other) limited my freedom of movement as a result of the annoying pain.

At one point I actually bought a folding cane to carry in my bag, and had to use it a few times.

When I finally met the specialist, he went over the results with me, discussed "pain management" as the only near-term option and then sent me to physio. He also gave a picture of the long-term prospects which I was not terribly happy about. I left the office feeling quite discouraged. Osteochondrital impaction? Big words for "can't fix it".

So I started physio. It made things hurt more, frankly - for a while. Then it hurt a bit less. But at the same time we were preparing to sell our house prior to moving - so I found myself up on the stepladder and tall ladder (generally, just plain upright for long periods), standing and moving as I repainted the entire inside of the house, including ceilings.

During the several weeks of prep and painting in the evenings and weekends my knees were on fire, but the job had to be done. However, after the third week I began to notice something interesting.

1) There were actually two types of pain, not just one.
2) I was hurting a bit less and less every day as I forced myself onto the ladders to paint.

By the time I went in for my followup visit with the specialist who had had little hope for me other than pain management, I was walking nearly pain-free, and not only that - I was able to stand in place for long periods as well.

Over two years of suffering, and nobody told me I just had to get off my butt and move!

Sometimes, pain is a sign to stop doing what you are doing or you will further damage things (pain #1), such as actual joint pain

Other times, it is simply a message that you need to persist, and things will get better if you push through and keep going (pain #2). This tricky type of pain was merely muscle fatigue - a sign that my knees were growing a little bit stronger again, and the next day would be a little bit better than today.

In the case of my knees, the odd bit I learned about joint mechanics is that when you exercise your muscles and tone them up, they actually pull your joints apart - reducing wear and pressure on the cartilage between the bones. If you let things go and rest because it hurts, you lose muscle tone and your joints experience more direct pressure from the weight of your body. Weird, but true.

On your projects, you will also experience two types of pain - good pain and bad pain. The key is learning to identify each type of pain and then respond to them appropriately.

 Listen to the podcast, or read the full article on Gazza's Corner blog.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

#025 - Would you know an Unacceptable Risk if it jumped up and bit you?

When I was younger, I was quite risk-averse. I said "no" to a lot of things that some might consider a "safe-ish" activity - like Bungee Jumping or riding a motorcycle. (Dirt bikes were OK though, because I never got going that fast).

So why did I find myself backing away from a snake charmer who was walking towards me with a fully loaded Cobra held out in front of him?

More to the point, why did I let him put it around my neck in the first place?

Most would say that this definitely falls under the category of unacceptable risk. Some might say it was the adventures of youth. I would simply call it stupid.

February 1993 - my first day in New Delhi, India for a 2-week trade show. On the ride in from the airport in the middle of the night, I had passed a man riding an elephant down the street. An amazing country. I was solo for the first two days before the rest of the team showed up, and I was looking for something to do after I had checked out the booth at the fairgrounds. We had organized for cars with drivers, because it takes a whole different set of skills to drive there.

My driver had pulled over to the side of the road so that I could experience some of the local culture and tourist attractions, which apparently involved getting your photo taken with a poisonous snake draped over your shoulders. 

It must have been the smog affecting my brain, because I agreed to do it.

As you might expect, I was a bit nervous so I asked the charmer if it was safe - if the snake had been de-venomed. He nodded. So we proceeded, and the driver snapped a couple pictures of me with the charmer holding the snake across my shoulders.

It was only after he had removed the snake and I paid him that I realized my mistake. The charmer decided he wanted more money as I was walking back towards the car.  So he started to follow me. I turned to see the charmer pointing the "apparently de-venomed" Cobra directly at me like a weapon. Oops.

The driver stood between me and the charmer and signalled me to hand him some money. I did, and he passed it to the charmer, who seemed satisfied, un-cocked his Cobra and walked back to the basket.

I afterward learned that nodding meant "No" and wobbling your head side to side meant "Yes".

I  guess I should have read up on the cultural signals before I left on the trip.

Do you know an unacceptable risk when you see it?  Or does it literally have to (almost) bite you before you know it is "unacceptable"?

 Listen to the podcast, or read the full article on Gazza's Corner blog.  

Friday, August 31, 2012

#024 - Leadership: On Developing Teams - Are you alone on the Ice?

Alone on the ice, surrounded by mountains and snow in the darkness. The faintest sliver of moon is barely brighter than the thousands of stars overhead. A cold, clear sky on a windless night, -16C/3F outside. I am dressed warmly but a small shiver escapes me.

Feeling very, very small indeed.

I am standing in the middle of Lightning Lake, British Columbia, Canada. The light of the stars is bright enough for me to easily see the contrast of light and dark - brighter, actually than I thought it would be. An igloo stands a ways back, off to my left. 

I check my watch. Time to go in.

I turn and walk in silence, a hundred paces back the way I came - where I join the rest of the scout troop I am leading. They have retraced their own steps back to the circle.

Technically I was not really alone - however with everyone separated and facing away from each other, looking only at the sky, the lake and the mountains, it was very easy to imagine you were indeed alone out there.  

In absolute stillness.

We waited for the last few to join the circle and then we quietly shared observations of the experience. Most felt small, insignificant, alone in the vastness - but also not alone, either. They were not talking about the other members of the troop hundreds of feet from them - they were feeling small, but also part of their surroundings.  Maybe the start of a sense of belonging to nature, and a few did not feel as cold standing there as they did on the walk out onto the lake.

The interesting part of the whole exercise was that from being and feeling quite alone out on the ice, we walked back to camp with a deeper connection from the shared experience of being alone in the universe - together. And I am quite sure that each of them will remember the experience as long as they live.

There is no one prescribed way to build a team, but the common thread in all successful methods is in doing things together. Whether you are leading and developing the youth who will be the leaders of tomorrow, or working with already-grown-ups, the principle is the same.

Teams grow and bond (and sometimes break apart) through challenges and the shared experience of building or accomplishing things - together.

 Listen to the podcast, or read the full article on Gazza's Corner blog

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

#023 - Teams, People and Change: You Can't Push a String

When I was younger and preparing to go to University, I received some strange but sage advice. I was told that if you wanted to go into Engineering, the two main things you needed to remember was "E=MC squared, and You can't push a string".

Image licensed from

Then a lateral thinker I know said "if you wet it and freeze it, you can push the string". Needless to say, he went on into Engineering on a path that eventually led to Project Management, while I completed a degree in Computing and came into Project Management from a slightly different direction. 
Of course, the person who provided the sage advice was merely describing the physical limitations of the string and its behavior when force was applied "in the wrong direction". As we  all know, it is much more effective to pull a string in order to move whatever it is attached to.
Unless, apparently, you wet it and freeze it.
Then it would be definitely easier to push it. It might even be harder to pull it, with it being all wet, cold and slippery. You probably would need gloves or some pliers to grab it so you could pull it.
It has been many years since I was told that message, but often the strange or different sticks with you. This advice came back to me most recently when I was contemplating a new project, and refreshing my thoughts about team development, and preparing for change within organizations.
In fact, it is a perfect description of what is NOT part of a successful approach to building a team or managing change. (The string part, not the E-MC squared part. And real string, not any quantum mechanical string theory stuff).
Because when it comes right down to the bare bones of it, People are like strings. Pushing them is rarely effective - but ah, if you can lead them (and pull them along in the same direction), there is no limit to what can be accomplished.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

#022 - Built to Last - Forget Waterfall, Forget Agile - Let's Talk Tectonic Project Methodologies

Have you ever managed a really big project? I am certain that many of you have managed some very large projects. But how big is that, exactly? As big as the pyramids? Well, maybe some of you have. But there are some projects that make even those pale in comparison.

As a matter of fact, I am currently sitting in the middle of one of the world's largest Projects. No, it was not my project - not by a long shot. We don't actually have the email or mobile number for the project manager responsible - but you can clearly see the results.

I am sitting here typing away in Hamilton - roughly in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand.

No, Hamilton is bigger than a pyramid, but it is not the project either. It is a nice place to live, and a medium sized city for New Zealand - actually the largest inland city as the main ones are along one coast or another.

The project of which I am speaking is the whole of the North Island itself. The island is 113,729 square kilometres (43,911 sq mi) in area, making it the world's 14th-largest island.

Ok, ok, you say - what's the point, and how is this a project?

I suggest this is a project because it is almost entirely volcanic in origin. Just like Hawaii or any of the smaller pacific islands - but on a much, much larger scale - both geographically and the project timeline.

I guess we should really call it a Program, because it is so large. Ok then, it's a very large program - with each of the volcanoes an individual project. 27 major volcanoes in the Taupo Volcanic zone itself, with another 15 or so scattered in the North Island - well, much more than that because the Auckland Volcanic Field features more than 60 cones. After a while, you lose count of the smaller volcanoes.

Then there is the South Island - a very different kind of project and island.

So - let's translate this to Project Management terms - and build ourselves an island or two.

Mt Ruapehu and Ngarahoe (right), Taupo Volcanic Zone

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

#021 - Lather, Rinse, Repeat - Why We Need to Re-Plan Projects

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

You will find these instructions (or some variation) on most shampoo bottles. Why include these instructions in the first place? Does it mean that the shampoo is actually not that good and you need a double dose? Or, could it possibly be they think you are extra dirty and need the extra round of cleaning (which might be kind of insulting)?

Actually, it is neither of those reasons.

The shampoo is not necessarily faulty, nor are you likely that gamey. The reason they put those instructions on the bottle is that they know the secret of doing a job effectively. The first round cleans most of the pollution, grease and dirt out of your hair - the next round does a final pass to make sure your hair is actually clean, and not just "less dirty".

Other two-part solutions abound - floss before you brush your teeth; your teeth will be healthier if you loosen up the stuff that is stuck between your teeth and then brush and rinse it away.

Painting a room? Don't ever believe the "one coat" label on the can or the brush. Every good painter (DIY or professional) knows that you need (at least) two coats for a good finish. One time round is simply not enough, unless you are freshening up the room with the same exact colour within a couple years. But if you change colours, you will need two coats, and possibly a primer/sealer before that to help hide the old colour. And the bigger the colour change between old and new, the more coats you are likely to need to cover it.

Not surprisingly, the same approach applies to Project Planning, however we are not limited to just a second pass; depending on the length of your project you may end up doing multiple rounds of re-planning to make sure that things are going to get done effectively.

Because - as every Project Manager knows, your project plan becomes obsolete the moment you save it or print it out.

Listen to the podcast, or read the full article on Gazza's Corner blog

Sunday, July 15, 2012

#020 - Decisions, Decisions...A Theory on the Origin of Writing

Decisions, decisions.

We each make thousands of decisions every day. Some studies have indicated that the number is at least 5,000, and possibly up to 35,000 decisions every day. Most of these are small decisions, done subconsciously, or on auto-pilot.

The conscious decisions we make every day are far fewer - but still easily in the high hundreds. The important decisions are fewer again, depending on the day. Some decisions may not even seem important until later on. But decisions we make, in the thousands, every single day of our lives. Even when you say that you can't make a decision - that is a decision to leave things as they are.

Theory on the Origin of Written Language

Babylonian legal tablet in stone envelope (Source: Wikipedia)

I have a theory about the origin of written language. There are many in-depth philosophical, scientific and scholarly theories and analyses on the origin and stages of writing in its various forms, from proto-writing through the various scripts, hieroglyphs and alphabets.

My theory is not about the how or when of when the various forms of written language were developed as proposed by those theorists. My theory is about why written language was developed in the first place - at any place in the world you like, regardless of the time period, style, method or medium.

So here is my theory, developed over the course of an afternoon, including a short nap:

Written language was developed because of all of the decisions we make.

More specifically, the important decisions.

Listen to the podcast, or read the full article on Gazza's Corner blog.

Monday, July 2, 2012

#019 - Once Upon a Time: Your Project is a Story

On July 1, 2012, my teenage son and I went to a book signing. My son's first time going to one - and it was for one of his all-time favourite authors. The author was in Hamilton, NZ for the last stop, and last "show" on his tour for the final book in the series. The next day, he was flying home.

Dragons, Magic, Dwarves, Elves, Wizards, dark forests - the core elements of every good fantasy novel are in his books.

The author spoke with the crowd for nearly an hour, telling of his journey of writing. It was quite an interesting story, and he was a dynamic speaker. At the end, during Q&A one of the members of the audience asked "how do you go about writing a book"?

The answer was insightful. His answer was that it was in exactly the same way as every other author he had met started to write their stories. The authors all started with Questions. "What if...?", "How about if the character did this...?", "Why can't we just...?" and so on.

That got me to thinking about Projects. Doesn't every project start the same way - with a lot of Questions?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

#018 - Other People's Money: Managing Project Budgets Effectively

Other People's Money. 

(Image source: Wikipedia)

When you mention these words, some people might think of stock markets, mutual funds, and the 1991 movie by the same name starring Danny DeVito, in which he played a ruthless corporate raider, leading hostile takeovers of other companies using everyone's money but his own. You might then think about recent history and failed banks, brokerage firms and the millions of affected people when their retirement investments shrank or fell to near zero and countless people lost their homes.

Scary, scary stuff.

Well, let's step back from the big scary picture out there. Back to the reality of your project, where you are "in charge". All of that scary stuff does not really apply to you, does it?

Well, unless you have zero control over your project (and you are just watching from the sidelines and not doing your job), it does apply to you. Unless you are Richard Branson or Bill Gates, you are probably not bankrolling this project from your own pocket.

Your entire project is funded by Other People's Money. This may be customer money, corporate internal project money, or the collected money from the bake sale last month.

The Bad News? You are the steward and caretaker of Other People's Money, entrusted to deliver the project outcomes successfully - within scope, on time, and of course - on or under budget.

The Good News? You are the steward and caretaker of Other People's Money, entrusted to deliver the project outcomes successfully - within scope, on time, and of course - on or under budget.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

#017 - Implementing Organizational Change? Learn How to Grow a Desert

All projects are change projects. That is the nature of projects – to create something new, to improve processes or to introduce something new into the business – and all of this requires people to adapt to the change. To better learn how to approach change - especially organizational change, we need to take a trip to a place that seems timeless, but is constantly changing.

White Sands, New Mexico - home to the largest gypsum dune field in the world, covering 275 square miles (712 sq km).

The glistening dunes of the White Sands desert are one of the wonders of the world, rising from the Tularosa basin on the eastern edge of the San Andres mountain range. Every year they slowly advance eastward across the Tularosa basin towards Alamogordo.

Gypsum sand is not a "normal" sand. Usually a desert like this would not even exist - gypsum is highly soluble and usually washes out of the hills and works its way down to the sea through streams and rivers.

In fact, the Tularosa basin used to be part of an inland sea, created by a massive rift when the continental plates pulled apart - but now it is a land-locked desert basin. It is part of the Chihuahuan Desert, seeing only a few inches of rain a year with no rivers to carry moisture (or gypsum) away.

The desert basin is also very flat - really flat, as only the bottom of an old sea or lake can be. When driving up to White Sands from El Paso, I literally drove in a straight line at 70mph/113kph (yes the speed limit) for an hour or more. And it felt like I was crawling.

The White Sands dune field is a good model for looking at Organizational change - progress can often be slow and steady, with occasional bursts of movement. From a distance, change may not even be apparent at all over short periods of time. And with the "wrong" environmental factors, progress can be literally washed away. But with persistence and the right change agents working together, you can move mountains. 

Listen to the podcast, or read the article on Gazza's Corner blog.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

#016 - Developing Exceptional Requirements: Lessons Learned from Ice Cream and the Spice Girls

One of the things I looked forward to most on my business trips from Canada to New Zealand was a little town called Pokeno, south of Auckland on the edge of the Bombay hills.

Pokeno is famous for two things: Bacon and Ice Cream, most definitely not in that order. Pokeno used to be right on SH1, and everyone travelling to or from Auckland and the Waikato went through it - right beside the butcher and two of the busiest ice cream stores you have ever seen, summer or winter. And even though these ice cream shops are literally side by side, neither of them suffers in the least. Today, even though the SH1 is a newer road bypassing Pokeno, it is still as busy as ever, with people making sure to take the off-ramp into the little town.

There is nothing special about the ice cream itself - you get the same brands in the grocery store. Nothing special about the service either - and you only get the one tiny napkin wrapped around the cone, and no spares on the counter.

What made Pokeno famous - and still does today - is that they have the cheapest, largest scoops in the country. And 42 flavours to choose from! Not only that - you can have up to 11 scoops at once (on one double cone base) - for only $8. I am not kidding. It would be literally about a foot high at least, above the cone. I haven't tried it myself, as 2 scoops is plenty for me, but you can be sure my kids have been sizing it up as a worthy challenge.

These are by no means tiny scoops either - in Canada and the US you generally get a modest scoop most places you go, except perhaps the "premium" shops, with premium prices. Here you get good, honest scoops, twice as wide as the cone itself - for once, actually bigger than the pictures suggest.

I am getting hungry just writing about it!

Anyway, this article is about writing Excellent Requirements - and yes, it does relate to the Ice Cream. One of the challenges in Pokeno is there is a lot of choice - 42 flavours, 11 configurations (1 to 11 scoops at once). That is a lot to wrap your head around, and don't forget the Sundaes.

We have similar issues with eliciting and documenting requirements on projects - we need to get down to the details of what is exactly needed by the customer. When everything is shiny and new, sometimes customers simply want it all...and sometimes they kind of know what they want but can't commit to a specific choice and option.

Chocolate, Dutch Chocolate, Dark Chocolate or Triple Chocolate Chip?

Cookies and Cream, Gold Rush, Peppermint or Goodie Goodie?

Wait, let me look at the other 34 flavours first...

And which one goes best next to Liquorice?

It is so hard to choose...we need some help!

What we need is...a good Requirements Definition Process.

Listen to the podcast or read the article on Gazza's Corner (

Monday, June 18, 2012

#015 - Everything I Need To Know About Risk Management I Learned From My Pocket Umbrella

January 6, 1991: Standing on top of Ayers Rock (Uluru), Northern Territory, Australia. 
45C/113F and a cloudless, brilliant sunny sky. Humidity? near zero.

One of the driest, hottest places on earth.

So why am I carrying my pocket umbrella in my backpack?

And what does this have to do with Risk Management?

Interesting question!
To answer that we need to go back a few years earlier - and to a much wetter climate.
Listen or read the full article on Gazza's Corner (

Gary Nelson, PMP

Friday, June 8, 2012

#014 - Interview with Peter Taylor, The Lazy Project Manager

In this interview, we hear about Peter Taylor's journey of getting published and how he worked The Lazy Project Manager up onto the Best Sellers List. Peter shares his insights on Project Management, writing and getting noticed, with sound advice for those who would like to share their knowledge and make their mark - be it writing a book, blogging or getting involved in the wider online Project Management community by sharing their own experiences and ideas.

Peter also shares his thoughts about managing yourself as the Project Manager - so that you too can be "productively lazy" - and get the right things done more efficiently, so that you don't wear yourself out trying to do more than perhaps you should when managing the project. It's all about balance.

The Lazy Project Manager's Theory of Projects, from a Productive Laziness aspect:

'All projects are thick at one end, much, much thinner in the middle and then thick again at the far end. That is the theory that I have and which is mine, and what it is too.'

- The Lazy Project Manager

Peter Taylor

Sunday, June 3, 2012

#013 - Leadership: You Can't Get There From Here (or, How to get things done in spite of it all)

Attitude, they say - is everything. Well, almost.
Perspective is a pretty big player as well.

On a project early in my career, the system deployment involved a group of technicians racing around the country installing hardware in switching and transmission sites in cities as well as some pretty remote areas. One of the technicians made a wrong turn off the main highway on his way to the Picton ferry terminal to come back up to the North Island of New Zealand. Standing by the beautiful shoreline and trying to work out where he was on the map (no GPS back then), a friendly local offered him some assistance. 

"Where are you trying to get to?" the local asked. 

"The ferry terminal" my colleague replied.

"Ah, you can't get there from here." responded the local.

Sometimes, our projects are like that. You know what needs to be done, but you are not sure how to get there - and when you seek directions or guidance, you seem to hit a wall. People are not usually obstructing you on purpose - they might just not have a wide enough perspective to help you with the big picture.

Listen or read the full article on Gazza's Corner (

Gary Nelson, PMP

Friday, May 25, 2012

#012 - This house was built by Volunteers - An Interview with Habitat for Humanity

Interview topic: Managing House-build Projects with Volunteers

Many projects are difficult enough to manage when everyone is paid to do the job. But what about when your team members are primarily volunteers - and the outcome of your project really matters to a family you have probably met? 

In this session we are speaking with Shirley Bennett, Family Support & Construction Liaison, Habitat for Humanity Central North Island (CNI), New Zealand. Habitat for Humanity CNI just celebrated their 100th Home-Build in the region. Listen to Shirley as she describes what it is like to work on projects where the team is comprised primarily of volunteers - and how they get it done.

Listen to the interview here.

Contact details for enquiries of if you would like to donate, contribute or volunteer for Habitat for Humanity:

Habitat for Humanity, Central North Island
29 Bryant Road
Te Rapa
Hamilton 3200
New Zealand
Office: +64.7.849.0284
Store: +64.7.849.7707

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

#011 - Leadership: Working with Volunteers

Everybody knows you should "play nice" when you are working in an office together. If you don't get along, there is the polite smile, or taking another hallway when you see them coming. But you are all paid to work together to get things done, so unless you are ready to quit and work somewhere else, you do need to work things out so that the team somehow manages to function - or eventually one of you might find you are being shown the door.

A Different World - Volunteering

In the world of volunteering, this becomes a totally different situation. Nobody is paying you to be there. Sure the donuts and coffee might be ok, but the real reason that volunteers are there is because they want to be there - they want to contribute to some vision or goal and make a difference.

Listen or read the full article on Gazza's Corner (

Gary Nelson, PMP

Monday, April 30, 2012

#010 - Gazza interviews the Practically Perfect Project Manager author - Sean Whitaker, PMP

In this podcast, Gazza interviews Sean Whitaker, PMP - author of the new book "The Practically Perfect Project Manager".

Listen to this Podcast as Sean explores the question 'What does it mean to be "Practically Perfect" as a Project Manager?'. Written in straightforward language, this is a practical how-to guide for new to intermediate Project Managers, and a useful reference for experienced Project Managers. This book has something to offer for almost everyone working in the Project Management arena. It does not prescribe a specific solution or system, rather it is designed to help you consciously choose appropriate tools and processes for your project - so that you too can be "Practically Perfect" in managing your projects.

You can also read Sean's blog at and listen to his podcast on the same site, or through iTunes (search for "Sean Whitaker"). 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

#009 - Project Planning 1.1: Project Tracking - Plan for it Now!

Project tracking is an important element of control on any project. During the project, you need to be able to measure and report on progress against project deliverables, and roll-up that information into higher and higher levels, until you often end up with a high-level dashboard for the Project Sponsor and other executives (red light, green light, yellow light). And in the long run, you need to be able to know when you have actually finished the project, and if you have succeeded in achieving the project goals.

Sounds straightforward, right? But as you probably already know, it is not quite so simple. There are many projects that do not track enough information, and others that track too much. All of this tracking requires effort, by the individual team members, their team leaders, the Project Manager, and those who receive the status reports.

Asking people to spend "overhead" time on activities like status reporting when they do not see any direct relation to what they are doing, and how it is used can be another big problem - if they do not see value in doing it, it becomes a "chore" that they would rather not do - so they may delay doing it, not do it at all, or worse, "fake it".

Sometimes all that effort results in only a cursory glance at the highest levels. So why bother with it? Or the information can become so disassociated due to poor structuring when it is rolled up that it becomes effectively meaningless. This problem can be a related to how you have structured your Project Plan, and also your approach to tracking. That, of course helps nobody.

So what do we track, how do we track it - and most importantly, how do we plan for it and what do we do with it?

In this session we will explore the essentials of Practical Project Tracking - what you will need to manage your project, satisfy the reporting needs of your stakeholders, and be able to tell, in the end, if your project was successful.
Listen or read the full article on Gazza's Corner (

Gary Nelson, PMP

Monday, April 23, 2012

#008 - Project Communications: GVSVCS (Free) Document Change Control System

Every project has documents. Dozens, hundreds, or even more. Some projects may be lucky enough to have an established document management system with version control. But many will not - and what do you do then? Or what if you do, but the client does not have access to the same system? Or you have a version control system - but people don't use it properly and you have a mess?

A very common scenario in the lifetime of any given document is that person (A)  writes a draft, sends it to B,C,D for review, receives feedback from each of them (separately or together), A updates it and the cycle continues until you have the finalized version. And quite often the files are exchanged by email.

Sounds simple, right? Well if you say yes - you have not actually dealt with the very real problem of version control (or change control). It is far too easy to lose updates when someone sends you a file that on the surface "looks like" the same one you had (same file name, mostly looks the same, you cannot see the changes because they were not marked or tracked properly etc). Or you overwrote B's updates with C's file when you saved the attachment. And even worse - if it is not being reviewed closely enough, that might not be caught until it is too late. Sound familiar?

There are many possible solutions to this of course - but I always like to think that simpler is better, because if you make it simple, people might actually use it. There are a lot of very expensive, fancy systems people just don't use - or don't use properly because they are difficult or tedious to work with.

Note that this is not a discussion on the "track changes" features of various document programs, which of course you should be using as well to track the internal updates. This is one level up from that, but just as important.

Listen or read the full article on Gazza's Corner (

Gary Nelson, PMP

Thursday, April 19, 2012

#007 - Project Planning 1.0: The Importance of the Project Kickoff

You cannot underestimate the importance of the Project Kickoff. It sets the tone for the rest of the project, and it is often the first time all of the key players on the Project will be face to face. In some cases, it may be the only time they all get together - so make it count!
It may also be the first time that you get to review the project objectives as a team, and it is where you will build the collective understanding of what you are trying to achieve - and the first stage in Project Team Development.
But what exactly is a Project Kickoff, and why do we really need it? In this session we will explore what it is - and why it is so important.

Listen or read the full article on Gazza's Corner (

Gary Nelson, PMP

#006 - Everywhere is Local: Providing seamless local access for clients, and stay connected globally - Cheaply!

Want to learn how to keep your business communication costs down, and solve the problem of staying in touch when you travel, without roaming, and without changing phone numbers?
Want to make it easier for your key clients to contact you, when those clients are long distance or overseas?
Want to travel overseas for a couple weeks, stay in touch and call family at home - for as little as $40 a trip?
These days it is possible to do this, and there are a number of options available, but I will tell you how with the methods and systems I use.

Listen or read the full article on Gazza's Corner (

Gary Nelson, PMP

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

#005 - Leadership: Managing Virtual Teams

Ever managed a virtual team? Considering doing so, but not sure what to do, and how effective that team might be - and who should be in it? And what, exactly, is a "virtual team"?

I have been managing and working with virtual teams for the past 11 years. From an on-site project manager role working with on-site/off-site resources, to now managing a team in a mostly virtual context, this session addresses some of my experiences - and lessons learned - working with Virtual teams.

Listen or read the full article on Gazza's Corner (

Gary Nelson, PMP

#004 - Everywhere is Local: Live where you want, and work Everywhere

The world continues to shrink day by day. Not physically of course - but practically, in how we conduct business and communicate. Today many take this for granted - but do not truly realize the full implications of the changes over the last couple decades and how this can affect your daily lives - both personal and work.

Today, I "travel" 30,000km or more every day - with a 2 minute commute, plus a few overseas trips every year. I am living where I want to - and working with clients everywhere.

Listen or read the full article on Gazza's Corner (

Gary Nelson, PMP

Saturday, March 31, 2012

#003 - Everywhere is Local: How to skip 8 time zones without getting Jet Lag

Jet lag? I just don't do it anymore. And many that I work with don't do it either.

Whether you are a frequent traveller, or doing a long-haul flight for the first time, these tips can help you make the trip easier, seem shorter - and not have you wiped out when you arrive. And with over 900,000 lifetime personal flight miles and counting, I can tell you that this really works. 

Listen or read the full article on Gazza's Corner (

Gary Nelson, PMP

#002 - Project Communications: Cutting through the Noise

Who's got the Monkey?

Email is one of the primary tools on projects, and is used extensively. As a result, personnel on the project may receive literally hundreds of project emails a day each, particularly the Project Manager. All of these emails are important to the project, however we all need to be careful to ensure that messages are targeted and tagged appropriately.

Listen or read the full article in Gazza's Corner (

Gary Nelson, PMP

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

#001 - Leadership: Ten Attributes of an Effective Leader

No, it is not a myth. Many of us have actually seen this phenomenon, or even been lucky enough to work with an Effective Leader. If you were really lucky, they were also your manager/ team leader/ project manager etc.

Ok, to be fair, Effective Leadership is not quite that rare - but uncommon enough that people definitely appreciate it when they see it - and they wished they had it too.

Listen or read the full article in Gazza's Corner (

Gary Nelson, PMP