Saturday, August 27, 2011

Seventeenth Exerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

...he steered the cart around all the bumps in the road.
The next morning, as they loaded their cart with their few possessions, the largest of which were the two scroll boxes, they were happy to see Fred ambling up the road, carrying a heavy bag. “Tha were serious last night, weren’t tha? Me ma said tha were just bein’ kind, and that I were a fool to believe tha.”
Gwilym clapped the man on his shoulder and told him to pack his goods in the wagon. “We’ll all be comfortable in the cart together.”
The three of them picked up the pallet, together with the sleeping babies inside and stowed it safely in the space left between the boxes. With a last look on the quiet village, they headed off on the eastern track to meet the Roman road.
The cart was not heavily laden so they made steady progress but the bumping threatened to wake the babies. Fred was getting more anxious and finally burst out, “Tha knows I’m t’better driver. Give me t’reins.” Taking these from Gwilym, he steered the cart around all the bumps in the road. They traveled away from the coast and through a country unspoiled by Saxon raids. While Bleddyn stared silently at all the new sights around him, Gwilym and Bleddyn discussed the new project.
“I’ll know more when I get on the site, but Sir Kay has given me a new charter that explains a lot. He likes these charters and gives them out to all the new builders.” Gwilym smiled at Fred who touched his nose significantly.
“That were a great idea of tha, gettin’ it all written down so none could argue. So what do this one say?” 
“Well, it’s curious. They want a watch-tower; I suppose it is one of a series of watchtowers leading from the north coast inland to warn of marauding Norsemen. But if it is just for passing on signals, why is it built to hold a garrison of men and to be defensible? There is a ferry there across the Ouse, so perhaps it's needed to defend the ford? We’ll have to see when we arrive.”
“And how will we be makin’ this tower better than t’last one?”
Gwilym thought long and hard. “There were a lot of problems last time and they seem to all stem from not knowing exactly what everyone wanted. The charter showed what the king wanted, and I did well following that exactly, but I think instead we need more of an overall understanding from the king, and allow the people who will be using the tower and the people who have to build it to have some say in what the real requirements are. And from there we can figure out exactly what we are doing and how to get it done.”
Fred was humming softly to himself and thinking hard about something. “What were you just doing?” asked Gwilym when Fred seemed to be finished.
Fred blushed deeply and mumbled, “Oh, just trying to remember what tha told me.”
“Please explain.”
“Well, tha knows I cannae write. I’m too stupid for that. Even your son can write and here I am, a grown man but too stupid. So I remember things by songs. I know, it be stupid but it’s me only way.”
“Fred. You’re not a stupid man. I’ve seen you grasp the concepts of building faster than any other man I’ve worked with. Ignorance of the skill of writing is not stupidity. Men were remembering things by song long before someone thought to write them down. These scrolls I carry are just the written words of long-ago songs. But sing me your song about tower building. I’d be privileged to be your audience.”
Fred alternated blushing and smiling and stammered out that it wasn’t a song about building towers. “I figure that t’song would work for any kind of buildin’, any kind of project for that matter. It be a song about gettin’ a group together and doin’ sommat…when they be not thy men…when tha not be in charge of them tha see?”
Gwilym smiled in genuine respect and asked the man, “Sing me your song. I think I could learn a lot from it.”
“Tha be the one teachin’ me. I’m just rememberin’ it. T’song’s not ready yet but I can give tha a taste for it.”
“Please do.”
Fred cleared his throat, then sang out in a clear tenor:

If tha want thy project to be no harder
Go to the king to sign thy charter
Make sure it says how small or large
And says quite clearly that tha’re in charge
It should show how it meets the kingdom’s need
And keeps all the others from their greed

It went on like this for a while, describing the charter, the list of stakeholders and some awkward verses about scope and requirements. Fred stopped then and said he had to work out those last verses better when he knew more about them and had seen how they work.
“Fred! You’ve done a great thing here. Please keep building on your song. When it’s done you’ll have the guide for Project Management. I can write it down for you in a scroll and you’ll be famous as a teacher of future Project Managers.”
“Ach! Tha’s just havin’ fun wi’ me now. Leave off.”
            “No Fred. I’m quite serious. You’ve created something important. Please do keep it going.”

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Project to capture Bin Laden

No American was yet inside the residential part of the compound. The operatives had barely been on target for a minute, and the mission was already veering off course. Photoillustration by John Ritter.
There was a great article in the New Yorker recently that laid out the details of the mission to capture Bin Laden. One of my students, Pete Thompson, showed it to me while I was teaching him about Project Management and pointed out all the good PM techniques used there. I decided to post about it and do the same for all of you.

Planning: The SEALs trained for months, repeating the steps needed for the raid under all conditions, creating 'memory in the muscle' so that they would be ready for any contingency

Uncertainty: Not knowing what was inside or under the buildings made the project risky. As unknown as any other project. As usual, members of the project team would have to think on their feet and be ready for any obstacles that arose.

Risk: They were unsure that Bin Laden was even in the building when they attacked. Their certainty level ranged from 40 % to 95%. But they knew that waiting longer would likely result in his detection being discovered and the certainty dropping to zero. This is a classic dilemma and best resolved doing exactly what they did. You make a decision based on 80% of the data. If you wait for 100%, you'll never get there and cause massive delays. If you make your decision with less than 80% of the information you need, you'll likely make bad decisions.

Lessons Learned: Carter's disastrous 'rescue' of the Iranian hostages and 'Black Hawk Down' lessons from Somalia gave the team mountains of data on how to create back-up and contingency plans. These all paid off when the first helicopter crashed in the compound. Any worse situations were anticipated by having two back-up teams of helicopters ready to move in from Afghanistan and an unpopulated area of Pakistan.

Stakeholder Analysis: The detailed stakeholder analysis they performed resulted in the decision not to warn the Pakistani 'allies' of their plans. They decided that the risk of Bin Laden being tipped off by this group was too high so they went with secrecy, knowing that there would likely be serious diplomatic repercussions.
Also, when making the decision of burying Bin Laden at sea, they contacted members of the Saudi royalty to see if they would rather take his body. “Your plan sounds like a good one,” the Saudi replied.
Experienced Team Members: Not only were the SEALs in this operation superbly trained, many were veterans of previous rescue operations including the rescue of Richard Phillips, the captain of the Maersk Alabama, from Somali pirates.

Executive Sponsorship: The orders for this operation, from its inception to the 'Go' decision were made at the highest levels of the military: the commander in chief. Obama stayed in touch with the operation all the way through and was ready to take the fall for any failures.

Alternatives Analysis: They decided against blowing up the compound with huge bombs because of the likely collateral damage. Bombs big enough to blow up any bunkers under the compound would be equivalent to a medium size earthquake in the town.

Problems: All projects experience problems and this was no exception. All the practice runs they had done in Nevada used a compound surrounded by a chain link fence. The real compound had thick stone walls that heated up during the day and resulted in a phenomenon known as 'Rotor Wash' downing the first chopper. The team members worked their way around this problem  by changing the landing places of the other chopper and taking more time to get to Bin Laden. They had to destroy the stealth parts of the downed chopper but had enough room on the remaining chopper and the rescue choppers to get out. A tough commander on the ground made the call to continue with the mission rather than abandoning it. Good Project Management! Get through the obstacles that appear.

Self Sacrifice: One SEAL wrapped up two of Bin Laden's wives and moved them away from his team in case they were wearing explosive vests. This would allow his team to succeed, even if he died in the process. Few projects have this kind of life-or-death choice inside but often we are faced with the situation of sacrificing a night with the family or a weekend to meet a deadline. Good team members make these tough decisions with the thought: 'The Project Must Win.'

Project Closure: Obama met with the team, down to the dog, thanked them for all their contributions and presented them with gifts that they valued. He never asked who fired the shot that killed Bin Laden, thereby emphasizing that it was a team operation.

All in all, a well-planned and executed project. Well done SEALs and well done to all the people in the government and military involved.

Monday, August 22, 2011

10 things to do with your resume to get that interview

Now that your resume is perfect, what do you do with it? During my last post about resume writing, you ended up with an outstanding resume. I also told you the purpose of a resume: To get an interview. This post will concentrate on getting to that point.

  1. Create a few different 'flavors.' Since everyone is looking at your resume electronically these days, and you are probably open to a few different job options, make a few different versions of your resume geared to the different options available to you.
  2. Post it up on the job boards. Monster, Career Builder, Dice, Six Figure Jobs. All of these career sites and more are free to the job applicant. Use them. Look at it from the perspective of the person looking to hire someone. They have to pay to use these sites so they usually sign up for only one or two of these services. If you are posted on one and they are looking at the other, they'll never find you.
  3. Update your LinkedIn profile. More and more people are looking first on LinkedIn to find people. It's free and considered less 'commercial.' Make sure that has your latest resume available. Better stick with only one flavor here though.
  4. Post it on professional organization's sites. It is unlikely you'll get a job through these sites but it only takes a few minutes and you never know.
  5. Don't forget your college's site. The career placement center should have a database available for job fairs or companies looking for workers. Make sure they have your latest copy. And ask if other universities have a sharing program with yours. Get your resume up on the sister college's sites as well.
  6. Apply to every organization's job posting board. If you have a list of target companies, upload your resume to their job board, even if they don't have a specific job listed for your skill-set. Typically they'll look to see who is on their job board with the skills they need before they post the job opening.
  7. Verify that the resume looks good once it's on the sites. If you followed my advice and used Times New Roman font 12 point and no fancy stuff on your resume, you should be fine. But if you have anything weird in there like crazy tabs and other formatting, your resume might look terrible once it has been uploaded. All sites have a review button that allows you to see what your resume looks like once it's uploaded. Use it! I'm always amazed when the search terms turn up a resume that is unreadable because there is &%20%& between every word rather than a space.
  8. Update, update update. When a company searches for a certain set of search criteria, the results are sorted for them primarily by age of resume. So if you have better skills than someone who placed their resume on the job board a week after you, their resume will show up first. So do the following: Every week, add a space or take away a space from your resume so it looks like it has been updated recently. That way, you'll always end up first in the searches. It doesn't take long, just do it every Monday morning.
  9. Apply for job openings. If your target company has openings that fit your skills, apply for this. Add a cover letter that shows how you meet their requirements using a table. See below for details.
  10. Use a requirements table. People hate to read paragraphs but love tables. Convert their job requirements into a table with their requirements in the left column and sections from your impact statements filling out the right column. Title the columns: Requirements and Experience. Watch how it works for my ideal job:
Ability to recruit and train excellent project managers
Created recruiting arm of Q Pharma, developed systems to streamline recruiting process, resulting in a steady stream of excellent employees
Ability to recruit and train excellent project managers
Formalized training of in-house employees, ensuring that Q Pharma employees appeared at client site fully ready to take on the responsibilities required of them.
Set up and manage Project Management Office (PMO)
Built Project Office, instituting methodologies, standards, metrics and policies and ensure adherence to procedures; achieving recognition for CSSC as a company that embraces project management
Manage Programs
Program manager for major pharmaceutical clients, overseeing nine project managers and twenty projects
Establish methodology for planning projects
Facilitated over 200 project kick-off / planning sessions, gaining clients’ support through their understanding of the complexities of each project and their roles within the projects
Experience managing projects in the pharmaceutical industry
Led three teams designed to maintain $80M/year market share, maintaining contracts between teams and senior staff.

Notice that sometimes I'll repeat requirements to emphasize my experience in this area. Requirements I don't meet, I'll simply leave out of the table. Your cover letter should introduce the table in the following way:
As you can see from my attached resume, I meet the requirements of this position perfectly. I have highlighted some of these matches below.

Read the next post for advice on how to interview well. I also added a post about Network Interviews and negotiating your salary when they offer you the job.

Friday, August 19, 2011

New project predicts crime

Here's a cool new project: Police in Santa Cruz, California are using computer models to look at past criminal data to predict when crimes are likely to occur in the future. Rather than relying on luck or officer hunches to patrol an area for a possible crime in progress, they let the computer predict the crimes and follow up on its advice.

According to this Times article, reaction to the prediction method among officers had been “quite positive.”

Officers are given a list of the 10 highest-probability “hot spots” of the day at roll call. They check those areas during times that they are not out on service calls.

Early indications are encouraging. Burglaries are down 27 percent in July compared with July 2010, suggesting that the targeted policing may have a deterrent effect.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sixteenth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

Inside he found three new scrolls.
The day before Gwilym and his family left Huish, they held a feast outside to celebrate their friendship with the villagers. All came to say their goodbyes and feast on the pig which had been turned over a low fire all day, filling the village with its fine smell. Gwilym had spiced it well and added a huge stew pot brimming with vegetables, also spiced to his satisfaction.
Fred was the first to ask where he was headed. Kay had not brought him along to the new building sites. “There is a tower being built on the Ouse in a town called Airmyn. I can’t tell you why it’s being built inland, but Sir Kay wants one there. Anyway, there are problems that Kay wants me to sort out, so I go thither.”
“And whar be t'Ouse, Gwilym? I never heard of it.”                                      
“It lies across the land, to the north, about ten days journey by horse.”
“Would thar be work for me there, Gwilym?”
Gwilym looked curiously at Fred. He was a strong fellow, dark and hairy with eyebrows meeting over his stubby nose. He was well-muscled from years of hard work, about twenty-five years old and skilled with tools. He had taken over the work-site a few times in Gwilym’s absence and had handled himself well. “And what of your family, Fred?”
“Ma and Da can live wi-out me fer a while. And thar be no maidens here I fancy. So mayhap I can find me a lass in t'wild North country?”
Gwilym was embarrassed at finding out he knew so little of his foreman and silently vowed to ask more questions of his men in the future. He recognized that his reticence was driven by the animosity his Saxon looks engendered amongst these Welsh. He had always held himself aloof from the crowd in defense. But looking around him now at the feasting villagers, he realized that they had forgotten their earlier distrust and had grown to love him.
“Fred. If you can make your way to Airmyn, I’ll grant you fair work there for the winter. And I’ll speak your praises to any fair maidens I see there.”
Fred blushed and was tongue-tied for a moment. Then he hugged Gwilym tight and walked away, embarrassed. Gwilym was unsure if Fred would come, but he figured all would be clear on the morrow.
After most of the villagers had eaten and drunk their fill and had said their goodbyes and wandered off home, Heilin and Heulwen came by with their sleeping foster children in their arms. They brought them to their bed and laid them gently, kissing their brows and smoothing their sparse hair. They wept, hugged Gwilym, and demanded that he return some day to show his growing boys off to them. Gwilym promised, and they walked off home, looking back often at their sleeping charges.
Now only Father Drew remained with Gwilym and Bleddyn. He was holding a long wooden box. He presented this to Bleddyn with a humble smile. “It is time you started your own library, Bleddyn.”
Bleddyn caught his breath, looked to his father and the priest for confirmation then, with trembling fingers, opened the box. Inside he found three new scrolls. He opened them carefully and found a copy of the Latin scrolls he had been studying in the priest’s home. “You made these for me, Father?” he asked incredulously.
“What else is there for a priest to do at night?” replied the priest.
“Thank you so much, Father! I’ll treasure these always!” Bleddyn hugged the box of scrolls to himself and watched the priest with wide-eyed admiration.
Gwilym shook the man’s hand warmly and thanked him profusely. “Scrolls are the greatest gift you could have thought of, Father. I wish I’d done the same for you.”
“No need, Gwilym,” the priest replied, looking a little ashamed. “I also copied yours for myself. I hope you do not mind.”
“You didn’t copy my Gospel did you?”
“No Gwilym. You asked me to keep it secret and I have done so. But I am still thinking about it seriously. The story it tells is more in keeping with the early British church and less with the Roman one. I would like to help you in any way I can to find the truth. The stories I copied were from your Greek adventures. You do not mind that do you?”
Gwilym laughed aloud. “Not at all, Father! That Odysseus had some great adventures didn’t he? Enjoy them! Father Drew, you’ve given me a great head start in my career. I’ll never forget you.”
The priest smiled warmly, shook Gwilym and Bleddyn’s hands firmly, then walked off, leaving the family alone in their packed-up home.

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Obama: Good one-term president or lousy two-term

Diane Sawyer inteviews Obama
A year and a half ago, Obama told Diane Sawyer of ABC News in an interview that he would rather be a good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president. Now, according to an interesting article in the Times, the president will get to prove whether or not he stands by that statement.

Will he commit to the budget cuts that are needed to turn this country around or will he play to his constituents and continue the social experiment that is bankrupting us?

I'm tired of starry-eyed politicians who make all sorts of promises to make big changes once they get into office but the first big change they make is to change their mind about what they set out to do and work instead on getting re-elected.

Now Obama started off strong, forcing his Obama-care down the throats of America whether we liked it or not. But then he started waffling on Iraq and Afghanistan. Now he is refusing to make the economic changes we need to be able to afford to live here. He needs to step up to his fellow Democrats and tell them, "We can't afford all these entitlements anymore."

Make the necessary changes and leave the country better off than he found it. Who knows, the people might just reward him for this tough medicine by giving him another term. And if not, that's OK. No-one said this was an eight-year job. Do your job for four years and see what happens.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Egyptian revoution going to Shariah law?

A protester from a Salafist group, among the most conservative and puritan Islamist movements, shouted Koranic verses and held an Egyptian flag at a rally on Friday in Tahrir Square in Cairo.
When the Arab spring started in February, I was concerned with the possibility of Egypt following in Iran's foot-steps: A popular revolution being co-opted by the clerics for their own purposes. At the time I though it would be the Muslim Brotherhood who would try to take the reins. I was wrong, it is even worse.

According to a recent NY Times article, the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the more liberal groups trying to hold elections while the more strident groups are shouting slogans like:“Islamic, Islamic! Neither secular nor liberal.”
The few liberals left in Tahrir Square are getting disheartened by the overwhelming majority of Salafists who are drowning out their revolution:
“They’ve come to show their muscles,” said Amr Hamza, a 25-year-old secular activist who has camped out in the square for weeks. With a hint of awe, he looked around the square, dominated by people in conservative dress. “There sure are a lot of them.”
A demonstration Friday in Cairo's Tahrir Square was billed as a show of national unity, but adherents to religious movements outnumbered other voices.
With the trial of Mubarak underway, perhaps we'll see some progress toward elections going on in the background while the people are watching the sideshow. But I'm afraid the fundamentalist Muslims will dominate the streets and take over this revolution, leaving the common Egyptians, particularly the women, in much worse shape than they were in under Mubarak.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

India's corrupt infrastructure

Work continues around the clock at the privately owned port of Mundra in Gujarat State, India

Project Management is all about avoiding the obstacles that stand between you and your project's success. Read about this man and the extremes he goes to avoiding the pitfalls of doing business in his own country.
This Times Article shows how he avoids the creaky infrastructure and corruption in his country to bring electricity to his people.

"For Gautam Adani, the power mogul, the answer was simple: the easiest and most profitable way to meet India’s rising demand for electricity is to avoid the obstacles, divisive political confrontations and practical inefficiencies of India. In the spirit of the workaround ethos typical of India’s private sector, Mr. Adani is working around the subcontinent itself."

"He owns the Indonesian coal mine, the Korean-made cargo ship (named for his niece Vanshi), the Indian power plant and, most important, the private Mundra port. He owns coal mines and a major port in Australia, and has built his own private railroad spur in India. His business plan is to do as much as possible without relying on the creaky infrastructure of the Indian state."

It's a very clever way of completing his projects but it must be embarrassing to his own country knowing that corruption and poor infrastructure cause him to buy his supplies elsewhere. Embarrassing enough that less than a week later, he was indicted by the Indian supreme court for his own corruption. Check out the follow-up article for more details. Who to believe?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fifteenth excerpt of 'Twelve Towers'

Gwilym pushed his way between the combatants and asked for peace
Rumors of raids were making the townsfolk nervous. The new tower was manned by a contingent of the king’s soldiers who told stories of such raids that they had pushed back elsewhere. One day an alarm bell was rung from the tower and the entire village gathered at its foot. The signal fire was blazing in the cauldron on the tower’s roof. Swords and shields were distributed amongst the men, from boys of twelve to men of under fifty while the priest and older men took the women and children deep into the forest for safe-keeping.
The day was spent in suspenseful waiting, punctuated by nervous training exercises conducted by the soldiers. The boys found this great fun, but the men, knowing the fear and danger of earlier battles, trained grimly and hoped for the best.
Gwilym conducted the exercises diligently, impressing the soldiers with his skill and earning him a promotion to captain of the villagers. He remembered previous battles, the death screams of friend and foe. He knew the randomness of death and hoped that this battle would pass them by. He knew that this time he had three boys to protect, so he would be extra careful, but he also knew that he would allow no foes past him to threaten his boys. He had also grown to love the people of Huish and would die to protect them.
After a long day of waiting and training, a mounted soldier came to the village on his way to Brycgstow. “The raiders were driven back to their ships. They are sailing south from here. Stand down but keep a watch on the tower.”
All the villagers breathed a sigh of relief and joked now that the tension was broken. A messenger was sent into the forest and a tearful reunion with wives and children followed.
After that, the captain of the guards insisted on regular drills with the villagers to keep them in fighting trim. The farmers were annoyed by this due to their farms’ needs but the captain insisted. Animosity started to develop, culminating in an angry confrontation outside the village tavern. Words became barbs and some shoving threatened to turn into punches until Gwilym pushed his way between the combatants and asked for peace.
“Captain! The men have to tend their farms or there’ll be no food for anyone, including you, right?”
“Right” admitted the captain.
“And Lloyd,” Gwilym addressed the farmers’ chief combatant. “You need to know how to fight to protect your field, your stock and your family, right?”
“Right,” the farmer reluctantly agreed. “But what about harvest? It comes in t’next few weeks and we cannot be wasting time prancing about with spears or our food spoils in t’field.”
“And Captain,” Gwilym seemed to ignore the farmer. “Do your men not get a little bored watching and waiting all day? And spend too much time and money in this tavern”
“True enough,” agreed the captain.
“Then why not send your men into the fields when they are not on duty? Have them help the farmers in their chores. Allow them to taste some fresh country meals and feel the dirt they are protecting under their fingernails. Let the farmers get to know the soldiers and the soldiers know the farmers. And all of you help during the harvest with a minimal watch on the tower to call for help. That way, you all get what you want and we become a unified fighting force. A well-fed one, too.”
The captain smiled and looked at Lloyd. In turn, Lloyd pictured the captain milking his cow and burst out laughing. The men shook hands and the tension was released. The soldiers did as Gwilym suggested and bonds between farmers and soldiers were formed. Practices were more unified, fields and flock were well-tended and chickens stopped disappearing.

There were a few more scares that summer when the village waited, armed and ready for the foe that never came too close. The raiding ships always landed elsewhere and conducted their plunders on other people. But the system of temporary warning towers always brought help in a few hours so the raiders were driven off before they could establish a foothold in this part of the land.
Harvest became a wonderful celebration with soldiers and villagers working side by side with the farmers, bringing in record crops and hosting feasts for each other.
After the harvest celebrations, Gwilym took stock of his situation and visited the smithy. Haearn limped over to Gwilym and shook his hand. “Your leg is all healed I see, Gwilym. Lucky you’re not a smith.” He glanced down sadly at his twisted leg, one foot turned at right angles to the other.
“I’ve come to talk to your daughters, Haearn.”
“Which one?” inquired the smith.
“Both. It’s about my sons.”
The two girls came in from tending the garden and wiped their hands on their aprons. They stood side-by-side, waiting for Gwilym to speak first.
“Jac and Llawen are weaned now, it seems. You’ve both done a fine job. My boys will never forget you.”
“Well of course they won’t, Gwilym. They’ll still see us every day,” said Heulwen. “Just because our job is done, doesn’t mean we don’t still want to mother them.”
“Aye,” said Gwilym sadly. “Only, I have to leave the village to find more work. I’ve come back from Caerleon with a commission. I’m crossing the country to help build a tower there. I’m taking my family with me. We’ll come back to visit some day but it may be years.”
Both girls burst our crying, holding on to each other in their sorrow. Gwilym reached into his money-pouch and pulled out some silver. “I wanted to give you a bonus for your wonderful job with my boys. You raised them strong and healthy. You gave them a great start in life.”
The girls looked at him with tear-stained eyes and smiled sadly up at him. “Please bring them back one day to see their foster mothers. And let us say goodbye first,” choked out Heilin.

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here: