Saturday, December 28, 2013

Seventy-sixth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          Gwilym left to supervise the men as they ramped the stone into the cart, Gwilym saw that the design on this rune was of a stable. He kept glancing at the pavilion but Grainne never appeared. Soon the crew was ready to depart so he called his boys to him, said goodbye to Madoc and Brice and the family followed the cart back to the job site.
         It took the rest of that day to bring the capstone to the site and hoist it into place. The natural placement was with the rune pointing back towards Huish. While doing so, Gwilym thought about how all the other runes pointed directly at the next tower he was to build. He constructed a map in his head of Britain and the towers he had built since the first one. Huish, then north by northeast to Airmyn, south by southeast to Londinium, northwest to Caernarfon, east to Salthouse and southwest to Huish. The lines between each tower created a star! Not just any star but a pentagram. At least the star had a point facing north. That supposedly represented a good spell, not an evil one.

         How interesting! He hadn’t noticed it before. This was a serious spell they were casting. He must talk more with Grainne to find out what was happening. Grainne. Have I blown it? He missed her even more now. The ache in his arms and chest spread to his belly and his cheek. Why only my right cheek? Because that was the cheek she had stroked yesterday after they had made love.
         Why was she so angry with me? Because I presumed I had a right to share her bed? Probably. That was obnoxious of me. She likes to call the shots during the love-making sessions. And they weren’t love-making sessions, they were a ritual part of a spell. She cared nothing for me. Even yesterday’s session, when she had moved so languidly afterwards and had been in so much evident pleasure was just a casual fling for her. Much the way I made love casually before I married. And those women had loved me too. Had they felt like this?
         One of the crew woke him out of his reverie. “Do you need us any more, Gwilym?”
         He shook his head and realized that they needed their final payment. Gwilym walked around the job-site, happy with the way everything looked. These Angles like to keep things tidy. He lined them all up and gave out the last of their silver, thanking each member of the crew for their time. He missed having Fred with him at this ritual. In two days they would go back to Huish to see him. Or would they? There was a price on his head and a lot of people looking for him now. Should he risk his son’s lives for a glimpse of Fred’s child?

         Tomorrow was Beltane. Merlin would appear and give him more river jade. Grainne and he would make love on the capstone. And the next day they would go…where? Wherever Sir Kay ordered them. Kay was involved in the enchantment, deciding where the towers would go or being told by Merlin. And a representative of the Druids checked to see if the rune was placed correctly. That would be Mostyn with whom he’d chatted last year. What was Mostyn doing? Tracing the drawing on the rune? That could have been done before it was placed. Unless he hadn’t seen them before. Making sure they were ‘sanctified’? What did that mean? Was he looking for remnants of his and Grainne’s lovemaking? Disgusting! But stranger things had happened. Gwilym determined to watch the enchantment closer this time. When did the mists appear? They seemed to be growing stronger. He shook his head as he neared the tavern and readied himself to face the scrutiny of his sons, especially Bleddyn.
To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Elie Wiesel's plea to the world

Elie Wiesel, in an appeal to learn from the past, spoke out in a recent full-page ad in the New York Times. In the spirit of this time of peace, I think we can all learn from his words.

Below is the full text:

Iran Must Not Be Allowed to Remain Nuclear
If there is one lesson I hope the world has learned from the past it is that regimes rooted in brutality must never be trusted. And the words and actions of the leadership of Iran leave no doubt as to their intentions.
Should the civilized nations of the world trust a regime whose supreme leader said yet again last month that Israel is “doomed to annihilation,” and referred to my fellow Jewish Zionists as “rabid dogs?”
Should we who believe in human rights, trust a regime which in the 21st century stones women and hangs homosexuals?
Should we who believe in freedom trust a regime which murdered its own citizens in the streets of Tehran when the people protested a stolen election in the Green Revolution of Summer, 2009?
Should we who believe in the United States trust a regime whose parliament last month erupted in “Death to America” chants as they commemorated the 34th anniversary of the storming of our Embassy in Tehran?
Should we who believe in life trust a regime whom our own State Department lists as one of the world’s foremost sponsors of terrorism?
America, too, defines itself by its words and actions. America adopted me, as it did so many others, and gave me a home after my people were exterminated in the camps of Europe. And from the time of the founding fathers America has always stood up to tyrants. Our nation is morally compromised when it contemplates allowing a country calling for the destruction of the State of Israel to remain within reach of nuclear weapons.
Sanctions have come at a terrible economic cost for the people of Iran. But, unfortunately, sanctions are what have brought the Iranian regime to the negotiating table.
I appeal to President Obama and Congress to demand, as a condition of continued talks, the total dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and the regime’s public and complete repudiation of all genocidal intent against Israel. And I appeal to the leaders of the United States Senate to go forward with their vote to strengthen sanctions against Iran until these conditions have been met.
I once wrote that history has taught us to trust the threats of our enemies more than the promises of our friends. Our enemies are making serious threats. It is time to take them seriously. It is time for our friends to keep their promises.
Elie Wiesel
Nobel Peace Laureate

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. Dec. 23, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

Reading through your post about How to plan a project I like the way you get people to sign up for responsibility at a task level using dots and circle-dots. But what if a person owns a task but also contributes to it? Do they still get a circle-dot?

Dot in Morristown, NJ

Dear Dot,

The best way to conduct the Responsibility Matrix session is like this:

  1. Place all the tasks (Activities) on the x-axis
  2. Place all the Team members on the y-axis
  3. Ask those present: "Who is actively contributing to this task's completion?"
  4. Note those raising their hands
  5. Place dots at the intersections of those people's name and that task.
  6. Ask of those who contribute: "Which of you takes responsibility for the completion of this task?"
  7. Place a circle around that person's dot.
Notice that, using this method, the owner of each task must be a contributor as well. 

Good luck,

PM Advisor.

Send your questions to

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Contingency plan for New Jersey's Superbowl

For the first time in many years, the Superbowl will be played in a winter city in January with no dome to protect the stadium. A project this large needs a massive contingency plan in case of snow. People paying $5,000 a ticket must be coddled, all the players, fans and media need to get to the stadium on time and God forbid there be a television delay.

This video shows a recent press conference highlighting the massive snow melting machine and all the reassuring New Jersey officials to make us feel like everything is under control:
Anyone but me wondering what happens to all the water that gushes out of this machine during freezing weather?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. Dec 16, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

When I schedule my activities in MS-Project, should I use best-case or worst case? Should I let people add a buffer to their activity durations? 

Protecting myself in New Jersey

Dear Protecting,

  • Never use best case since projects are bound to have problems and you will miss the deadlines you promised your management. 
  • Never use worst case since your projects will always show due dates way beyond where management knows they should be.
  • Never allow people to add buffers to their activities since that will also result in completion dates too far in the future. 

So what does that leave you? Most-likely case with the buffer added in at the management level, not the team level. Let me explain. First we'll talk about the number of tasks you add to your Work Breakdown Structure.

Say one of your activities is the coding of some software or the creation of some document. Best case would have you code the software and sell it. That never happens. You code, test, fix, test, then approve. Sometimes you go through three or four rounds of test and fix before you are happy with it. Same with documents. So your Work Breakdown Structure  needs to include all these steps:

  • Draft, review, edit, review, edit, approve.
  • Code, test, repair, test, repair, test, repair, test, approve

Whatever is common practice at your company should be planned for the current project.

Now we need to talk about buffers. When someone estimates the duration of their activities, they should give you the most likely case without a buffer. You add these all up according to the network to determine the overall project timeline. You present this to management. Since you have added all the 'known unknowns' as represented by the redo activites, you are done. At this point, management adds a buffer to take into account all the 'unknown unknowns.' They may choose to add 10 - 20% to the overall time required by the project.

You, the Project Manager, own this buffer. If someone requires an extra day to complete a task, you take it out of your buffer. If someone finishes an activity two days ahead of shedule, notify the next person down the line of the change in schedule and add these days to your buffer. And when the bad thing happens to your project and you need those extra two weeks, you have them there in the buffer.

Another time I'll address the subject of maintaining control of the buffer.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Seventy-fifth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          The next day, as he rode in a heavy cart back to the clearing to recover the capstone, he struggled broaching the subject about his son’s half-brothers. He knew that Bleddyn knew about Grainne but he was unsure how the little ones would react.
          “Remember last year, as we drove to Huish and we talked about me getting you a new mother?” The boys all looked at him with serious expressions. “And Jac and Llawen wanted me to marry again but Bleddyn didn’t?” They all nodded. “How do you feel about it now?”
          The twins looked at Bleddyn who arced his head back in forth in a mixture of a yes and no. Jac and Llawen looked at their Dad and nodded yes.
          “Remember Grainne, the woman who saved you from the evil knight?” They all nodded. “I’m thinking of marrying her some day.”
          With wide open eyes they questioned their father. “What is she like? How old is she? Do you love her? Will she bring a dowry? Is she a princess? A witch?” Plus a hundred other questions that Bleddyn tried his best to answer.
          “She hasn’t told me she’ll marry me yet but while we’ve been thinking about it, we’ve created two brothers for you.”
          The boys stared at him. “Brothers?” asked Bleddyn.
          “Aye. Their names are Madoc and Brice. Madoc is about three and Brice is just one. They’re fine boys and you’ll meet them when we get to the clearing.”
          Jac and Llawen were jumping up and down with excitement. Jac tried to do a cartwheel and Bleddyn had to grab him before he fell out of the cart. Bleddyn looked at his father with a serious expression. He whispered to him, “Two years younger than the twins. You didn’t wait long after mother died.”
          “It’s complicated son. It’s not what you think. Can I explain it all to you tonight?”
          “When will you marry her, Da?” asked Jac.
          “Now that’s a serious question you need to leave between me and her. Please don’t mention marriage until I tell you it’s all right.”

          Bleddyn stepped down off the cart and walked alongside it in silence. Jac and Llawen continued peppering their father with questions about their brothers.

          When the group arrived at the clearing, Gwilym set the crew to retrieving the rune-stone. When they saw that it was partially buried, they questioned him about its suitability to meet the purpose. He reassured them and they set to work. All this time, the flaps of the pavilion had stayed down. While the crew was working to dig out the stone, Gwilym took his sons to the pavilion.
          He coughed and asked, “Grainne, are you awake?”
The flap opened down near the bottom and Brice’s face peered out at them. He took in the family and then disappeared. Jac and Llawen laughed at this. Llawen hugged Jac and said, “He looks just like you!” Gwilym looked at Bleddyn out of the corner of his eyes and saw a suppressed grin on his face.
          The flap moved again and this time Madoc’s face appeared. He examined all three boys, then glanced up at Gwilym and whispered, “Ma’s not awake yet. Come back later.” Then his head disappeared into the pavilion again.
          Gwilym nodded his head and said to his disappointed boys. “This clearing looks like a good place for some cartwheels. Why don’t you have some fun here while I check on my crew?”
          He walked back to the crew, looking with guilty pleasure at the tree Grainne had held as they made love yesterday. He watched the crew with one eye while he kept his attention on the boys outside the pavilion. Jac and Llawen did some cartwheels and somersaults. Bleddyn wrestled with them and played wheelbarrow with them. Within five minutes Madoc and Brice came out and played along. Before long, Madoc was on Bleddyn’s shoulders and Brice on Jac’s and they were racing. Then Bleddyn was holding Llawen by an arm and a leg and swinging him around while Madoc did the same with Brice. All the boys were shrieking with pleasure.
          Gwilym stepped inside the pavilion. When his eyes grew accustomed to the dark, he saw a pile of blankets on the pallet and a tangle of red hair peeking out from underneath. The blankets rose and fell with her breathing. He felt an intense tenderness towards this woman with whom he had just now decided to spend his life. Really? Spend my life? But how else could he raise all those boys together while Grainne spent all her time with them?
          He sat down on the pallet and removed his boots. He took off his cloak and crawled under the covers with her. She fussed a little in her sleep and he took the opportunity to work one arm under her neck and drape the other over her waist. He watched her as she slowly awoke. Her face was wrinkled from the bed covers. Her expression was unlike any he had seen her wear. There was no guard on it; she seemed content for the first time. Then she opened her eyes.
          He smiled.
          She didn’t.
          “What are you doing in my bed!” she shouted. She pushed him hard in the chest and he rolled out. She glanced around the pavilion. “Where are my boys?”
          “They’re outside, playing with mine. I’m sorry. You looked so comfortable and warm and I wanted to be with you. I’ve never woken up with you before. I wanted to see how it felt.”
          “Don’t take liberties with me! My bed is not yours to share!”
          “I thought...after yesterday… we were something more than just Beltane lovers.”
          “There is something more. Sometimes I just want to fuck! You’re good for that. Don’t think you own me and can come into my bed in the middle of the night.”
          All the thoughts Gwilym had of them becoming one big family were dashed by her tirade. He put on his boots and cloak and walked back out into the clearing. The boys were still playing noisily and the crew was still working. He hoped no-one had heard Grainne’s outburst. Bleddyn met Gwilym’s eye and turned away. He moved towards his boys and watched them play for a while.
          Madoc ran to him. “Are you going to marry my Ma?” Gwilym looked at his boys and Llawen blushed and covered his mouth.
          “If she’ll have me. But I haven’t asked her yet. You know, son, asking a woman to marry you is one of the greatest moments of your life. It is wonderful to see the surprise in her face. Do you want your Ma to see that surprise when I ask her?”
          Madoc nodded.
          “Then, can I ask you to keep that secret for a while. Just until I ask her. Then you can tell her that you already knew. Is that fair?”
          Madoc nodded again with a serious expression on his face. “But I don’t think she can marry you. She’s a priestess of Avalon and they’re not allowed to marry. I think she’ll say no. Do you want me to ask her for you?”
          “No Madoc. I’d rather it be me.”
To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chicago changing pension obligations

As cities and states start to realize that there is no way they can continue to afford to pay their obligations to the government workers who have retired and believe they have pensions and free medical care for life because they put in their 20 years, some are starting to come forward and admit it.

After Detroit filed for bankruptcy, Chicago is promising a fight with its employees' union on pensions. Last week's Times had a great article giving lots of details. The bottom line is that Chicago changed the rules under which it operates to allow it to change public pension funds to stave off bankruptcy.

New Jersey has been neglecting to pay its share to the pension funds for years and is the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand. When will it and other states make the changes that are needed to bring their fiscal houses into order? Or will they continue leaving a bigger mess for the 'next administration' to clean up?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. Dec 9, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

When I schedule activities in my Gantt chart, my boss likes to see all the deliverables as milestones. I'm used to showing them as summary tasks above all the activities. What do you recommend?

Stony in Morristown, NJ

Dear Stony,

Who writes your review at the end of the year? Who is responsible for any bonuses, promotions and career growth? Give that person what they want.

People have varying levels of comfort with MS-Project. Some like to see how long each deliverable takes, seeing it from the beginning of the first activity to the end of the last one. When you roll up a Gannt chart with the default settings, you will see this.

Others look at this and just see a bunch of bars and get confused. They just want pinpoints showing when each deliverable is completed. A nice diamond at the end of each deliverable works for them. When you roll up this type of Gantt chart, you can see all the diamonds.

Still another group wants to see both.

A fourth group, I count myself in this group, want to see the full summary task type deliverable bar with milestones indicated where they are important: Design Review Complete, Go-Live, things like that.

The bottom line is this: 90% of a Project Manager's job is communication. So communicate the way your stakeholders want to be communicated to. Especially if that stakeholder is your boss.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Friday, December 6, 2013

Last great African leader dies

Last year I wrote about the sad state of leadership in Africa and how the five million dollar Ibrahim prize for good governance in Africa was not awarded for four of the last six years. The key requirement that failed was voluntarily leaving office.

Nelson Mandela was a great example of an Afican leader. He grew up within the Zulu royalty but chose to elevate his people rather than himself. He sacrificed 27 years of his life in prison to fight against the unfairness of Apartheid. Then, when elected as leader, sought forgiveness over revenge, progress over corruption, peace over war.

Read this excellent NY Times obituary for his whole remarkable story.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Factory Apprenticeship needed in the US

Interesting article in this week's Times about the lack of apprenticeship programs in the US that produce skilled workers for the high tech manufacturing plants here. According to the article, this is the norm in Germany, resulting in a steady stream of highly qualified workers to fuel their industries.

One of my big clients is building a steel mill in Alabama and they are receiving all sorts of help from the state including state-sponsored training programs to train the workers they are hiring. Once the state trains them, they will have their pick of the graduates.

The main reason my client chose to place their new plant in Alabama was the support they are receiving from the state of Alabama. It's time other states wised up and started providing similar support.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

College football conference graphic

Here's another great graphic and one I want to post so I can have access to it when I need it. It shows the shifting conferences that college football teams have experienced lately. The picture is pretty small but this link gets you to the web page from the NY Times that allows you to interactively highlight any team and see where it went. great job Times!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Seventy-fourth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          Gwilym’s heart leapt at this. I have two more sons. What are they like? Grainne held his hand in hers as they walked to the pavilion. She opened the flap and Gwilym saw a straw pallet on the ground next to a pair of saddle bags and a small harp. The boys were sitting on the pallet playing some quiet game when they entered.
          “Madoc, Brice, I want you to meet your father.”
          They both looked up at Gwilym with puzzled expressions. Madoc was just over three; Gwilym calculated that Brice must be about 15 months.
          “We don’t have fathers in Avalon,” said Madoc.
Grainne stepped over to the pallet and sat next to them, Brice crawling into her lap. She stroked Madoc’s hair. “Every living thing has a father. Some father’s stay with their children like robins, some go away like deer. In Avalon, we are like the deer. The mother stays with the children, the fathers go away.”
          “Why Ma? In the villages, the fathers stay with the children. I like that better.”
          “Avalon is a special place. Men can’t live there.”
          “Meagan says that boys have to leave Avalon when they are three. Am I ever going back?”
Grainne’s face crumpled in on itself like an empty falling sack. Tears started to flow from Madoc’s eyes. Brice stroked his mother’s cheeks. Gwilym was frozen by Madoc’s words and the raw emotions in the pavilion. Grainne was the first to speak. “Madoc. You are my most precious thing. I won’t let you go. I will fight for you. If you have to leave Avalon, Brice and I will come with you.”
          “Thanks, Ma.” Both boys clung to her. She looked at Gwilym with tear-filled eyes.
          Gwilym squatted on his haunches in front of the group. He held out his hand to each boy in turn. “It’s very nice to meet you. My name is Gwilym. I am a builder of towers.” With wide eyes they shook his hand in turn.
          “You must be Madoc and you turned three a few months ago.” Madoc nodded.
          “And you must be Brice and you had your first birthday around the same time.”
          “The same day!” shouted Madoc. “We share the same birthday.”
          “How curious,” said Gwilym meeting Grainne’s eyes. Her tears dried up as she sensed what he hinted at. A wry smile crossed her face.
          “I have an idea,” he said. “I’ll tell you three interesting things about myself. Two will be the truth and one will be a lie. You have to judge which one is the lie. Then it will be your mother’s turn, then Madoc’s, then Madoc can tell us two truths and a lie about Brice. Fair?”
          They all nodded, Brice because he saw his brother’s interest.
          “All right then. I am six and a half feet tall. I can read five languages and I have traveled all the way to China.”
          The boys stared at him with open mouths. “Remember, one of those stories is a lie.”
          “Ma says we should never lie,” said Madoc.
          “A lie is all right if it is a story and we tell the truth right after,” said Grainne. “I know you are six and a half feet tall and I know you have traveled so I guess that you cannot read all those languages.”
          “Me too!” shouted Madoc. Brice nodded.
          “No,” said Gwilym. “I do read those languages. British, Dutch, Latin, Greek, Aramaic. Also some Saxon and Angle. I have traveled, but never further east than Mecca. I thought about joining a caravan once but decided against it. Your turn, Grainne.”
          Grainne pursed her lips and thought for a moment. “I can sing a thousand songs, I am very good at Mathematics and I have a pet dog called Tessa.”
          “I know!” shouted Madoc. Grainne smiled and told him, “Guests first.”
          Gwilym looked around the pavilion. “I can see the harp and I’ve heard your singing. I hope you’ll share more of your thousand songs with me soon. Both your sons’ eyes opened when you said Tessa so I’m sure that’s true. I guess you’re not good with Mathematics.”
          “Ha!” exclaimed Madoc and Brice clapped his hands.
          Grainne smiled. “Just like a man to assume I’m no good at Mathematics. As it happens, I’m excellent at the subject. You, on the other hand, are lacking. Does it make sense that I would know one thousand songs at my age? At any age?”
          Gwilym shook his head and smiled to himself. “You got me there. What about you Madoc? What can you tell me about yourself?”
          Madoc was ready and the words burst forth from him. “I love my dog. I love cake. I can climb the tallest trees.” Then he rolled back on the pallet and laughed out loud.
          Gwilym looked impressed. “Such a brave boy, climbing the tallest trees at 3 years old.”
          Madoc stopped laughing and looked at Gwilym with open mouth. “How did you know?”
          “But which one is the lie? I saw your eyes widen when your mother talked of Tessa so I can’t believe you don’t love your dog. That means you must be just like your Dad. You don’t like cake but you love pie.”
          “Yes!” he yelled. Then he jumped off the pallet and ran to Gwilym, giving him a fierce hug. Gwilym was shocked, then returned the hug with his powerful arms. My son!
          “What about Brice? Can you tell us two truths and a lie about him, Madoc?” asked Gwilym.
Madoc held Brice’s face, stared at him and thought for a long time. Grainne met Gwilym’s eye and they both smiled at this tableau. Such cute boys! Then Madoc announced he was ready.
          “Brice poops in his clothes. He loves green vegetables. He is always nice to Tessa.” He sat back and rubbed his hands together with delight. Grainne looked on him with evident pride.
          Gwilym answered. “I think I can smell from here that he still poops in his clothes. So did I at his age.” Madoc burst out laughing.
          “No boy likes green vegetables at his age.” Madoc jumped up and down but held his hand over his mouth to keep from speaking.
          “And I know he loves his dog so he always is nice to Tessa. So the story about the vegetables must be the lie.”
          Madoc let go of the hand and shouted in delight, “No! He loves vegetables. He’s so weird! More than pie even. Yuck! But sometimes he pulls Tessa’s tail and Tessa doesn’t like that. I tricked you! I tricked you!” He came back over and hugged Gwilym and then snuggled in again with his mother.
          Gwilym was shaking his head slowly back and forth. The emotions within him were so strong that tears started to fall down his cheeks. Pride in his sons. Learning about them. Seeing how Grainne acted with them. The knowledge that they had to leave Avalon. Curiosity if they would be fostered with him. Lust over Grainne. Wonder about Grainne’s statement that she would never leave her children even if ordered to by Avalon. Love for Grainne. Love for Grainne? Yes.
          His vision blurred as the tears fell. He felt a boy’s arms around his neck and he hugged the boy back. From the size of him, he realized with surprise that it was Brice, not Madoc who was hugging him. Then he felt another set of arms around him from behind and he reached an arm around to pat Madoc. Then Grainne wrapped them all up with her arms.
          Madoc said. “It’s all right, Father. You only got two wrong. I’m sorry I made Brice’s questions so hard.”
          Gwilym laughed then and told the boy, “I’m crying because I’m happy. I’m so happy to meet you. My boys!”
          “Come Madoc, help me gather some mistletoe,” announced Grainne, standing up. Madoc and Brice followed her to the base of an old oak tree where she looked up and pointed to the parasite in the high branches. She asked Gwilym to help her to the lowest branches. From there, she scrambled nimbly up from branch to branch until she reached the mistletoe. Gwilym watched her reach under her shift and pull out a silver sickle. With the inside edge of this, she sliced the mistletoe from the tree and dropped them down into Madoc’s waiting arms. Holding the sickle in her teeth, she clambered down and dropped to her feet right in front of Gwilym.
          “That’s a nice trick,” declared Gwilym, as Madoc and Brice carried the mistletoe back to her pavilion.
Holding his gaze, she shrugged her shift off her shoulders and slipped the sickle into a silver sheath on a chain around her waist. Gwilym was inflamed with lust at her naked breasts but she lifted her shift back up and turned to follow her sons. He followed her back to the pavilion and she climbed in, picking up a harp.
          Grainne started playing. The boys sat down on the pallet. Madoc patted the space between them and asked Gwilym to sit. When he did so, Brice crawled into his lap and Madoc curled against his side.
          After a pause in playing, Grainne started up a new tune and started singing. Her voice broke out clear and perfect with no warming up. Her notes were like bells on a clear winter day. They filled the tent and clutched at his heart. He stared at her, surprised that her husky talking voice could be transformed into this set of perfect bells ringing out this song. Never missing a note, no sliding up and down to reach the highs or lows.
          The song was a happy one about the fairies living in Britain before the arrival of the big folk. It told of feasts and festivals, kings and queens, the love of the princess for a handsome commoner.
          When the song ended the boys all called for another and she indulged them for two more. Madoc demanded a song called ‘Student of the Master’ which was about a young Druidic apprentice who outsmarts his teacher. She sang a few verses of this, then said it was time for Gwilym to go. “We’ll see him tomorrow when he brings his men here for the capstone.” The boys whined but Gwilym noticed, on leaving the pavilion, that it was almost sunset and his other sons would be wondering where he was.
          Gwilym kissed Grainne then, in front of their sons, and told them all he would return right after sunrise. He hugged the boys in turn and told them, “How would you like to meet your other three brothers?”
          Madoc looked shocked and Brice copied his mood. Gwilym hastened to console them. “I’m sure you’ll love them. Their names are Bleddyn, Jac and Llawen. Bleddyn is 12 and Jac and Llawen are about a year and a half older than you, Madoc.”
          Madoc burst out crying. “Is that why you took me here, Ma? Do you give all your boys to him when they are three?”
          Gwilym was mortified that he had given the boy the wrong impression. Grainne knelt down, pursed her lips and took him in her arms. “No Madoc. Gwilym’s other sons were by a different mother. I don’t want to give you up. I’m sure you’ll be with me until you are grown men: 15 or 16. Don’t cry, son. I have met your brothers and they are nice boys.”

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

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. Nov 25, 2013

Dear PM Adisor,

During last week's post you showed some rules of thumb for breaking down a deliverable into the activities that comprise it. Got any more? I often get told I'm breaking it down too far.

Anal in Austin, TX

Dear Anal,

I have some rules of thumb but remember they are here for the breaking. Use them when you are unsure of how far to break down your work but don't feel constrained by any of them so that you rely solely on the 'rule.'

  • 3 - 15 activities per deliverable - If you have less than 3, you either didn't break down the deliverable enough or these are activities that belong under a different deliverable. If you have more than 15, you are either breaking the deliverable down too far or you have more than one deliverable here.
  • The 'If it's easier to manage' rule - If a deliverable changes hands often, break it down so that different people will own different activities within it. For example, one person may be responsible for drafting a document or writing code but another person may be responsible for reviewing or testing it. Break that down into two separate activities.
  • The '8/80 hour' rule- If an activity takes more than 80 hours of effort, it's not broken down enough. If an activity takes less than 8 hours of effort, it's broken down too far. (Careful with this last one. Reviewing a doc the second time may take only an hour of time but it is a separate activity from the modification activity above it so the 'If it's easier to manage' rule takes precedence.) 
Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. Nov 18, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

I've been working with the same team members on the last three similar projects and they gave me some disturbing feedback lately. They say that the level of detail I get down to in the Work Breakdown Structure is too much. They say it made sense a few years ago but they know how to do the work and don't need to be micro-managed. 

I told them that this was the process and we were successful before so we should stick with it. 

Any advice?

Pedantic in Atlanta

Dear Pedantic,

I love that you stick to a methodology that works but project management requires flexibility. If you have a deliverable that is fairly straightforward and highly experienced team members, you don't need to manage that deliverable as tightly as those more complex deliverables, especially if your team members are less experienced.

Remember that you don't have enough time to manage every activity. The Pareto principle states that 20% of the activities will cause 80% of the delays. Use the below rule of thumb to focus on those activities that are most likely to cause delays.

Here's a rule of thumb for breaking down deliverables into activities when you conduct your Work Breakdown Structure session:

Complex Deliverable/Low experienced team members: 11 - 15 activities
Medium Deliverable/Medium experienced team members: 6 - 10 activities
Simple Deliverable/Highly experienced team members: 3 - 5 activities

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Seventy-third excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          After losing Kaitlyn, he thought this romantic life was over. Even after laying with Grainne four times, he still held his love for Kaitlyn deep in his heart. Grainne had been all about sex and magic and lust and Beltane. Everything but romantic love. Yet she had saved his boys’ lives and here was this familiar ache in his arms and chest, an ache he hadn’t felt since he was courting Kaitlyn.
          Was it possible he was in love with this infuriating Beltane priestess, this sorceress? They didn’t even share a religion. Although Gwilym was respectful of her religion, she often expressed her disdain for Christianity.
          Then there was the way she had treated him last time they had met. Using her priestess powers to force him to venerate her! Infuriating! Yet somewhat exciting. But not at all fair. He was already attracted to her; she didn’t need to use those powers. She was impatient. He’d had questions. He felt emasculated by the process. Or did he? In fact, remembering the scene, he grew hard, his manhood insisting on attention. He looked around, wondering if he should relieve himself here.
          He stepped into a forest clearing and was bumped into by a little, toddling, tow-headed boy being chased by a taller red-haired boy. They looked up at him in astonishment. Gwilym dropped his jaw as he stared at what could only be Jac at age one. The red-head looked a little like Llawen but with red hair and freckles. “Sorry sir,” said the older boy taking the younger by the hand and leading him away. There was a pavilion set up on the far side of the clearing. The boys walked that way, the younger one looking back over his shoulder at Gwilym. “Come Brice,” said the older boy, pulling gently on his arm. “Let’s go to mother.”
          Gwilym had a sudden idea. “Madoc!” he shouted. Both boys turned around. He walked towards them and knelt down. “Are you Madoc?” he asked the older boy. He nodded with wide eyes. Out of the corner of his eye, Gwilym saw the flap in the pavilion open and a woman appear. He knew who it was before he looked there.
          “Madoc, Brice, come here!” she said, looking straight at Gwilym. They scampered to her and Gwilym followed the boys at a distance. She swept them into their arms and ushered them inside the pavilion, closing the flap as Gwilym approached. He stopped in front of her and declared, “Two beautiful boys.”
Grainne smiled broadly, her pride evident. “Yes they are. So you came, Gwilym.”
          “I’ve been thinking about you for a long time. I miss you, Grainne.”

She smirked and walked away. “Are you sure it’s not this you’re missing, this you’ve been thinking about for a long time?” He followed her, watching her hips swinging, her buttocks bunching up and relaxing as she walked and thinking to himself, Well, that’s certainly part of it. He held vivid memories of their lovemaking sessions and the pleasure he had gained from that beautiful ass.
          Grainne stopped in front of a partially buried stone and he realized that this was what she had been referring to. The capstone lay right there on the edge of the clearing. She turned in triumph and he could tell from her impish smile that she had meant the double-entendre. He laughed at the way she had done this and remembered the times in the past when she had used this technique. You’ve built a fine tower. Another wonderful erection.
          She stared without shame at the swelling in his loins, stirring back to life at the sight and memories of her. She stepped up to close the space between them. She placed one hand around his neck, lowering his head and kissing him deeply. She placed her other hand on his swelling crotch, squeezing the shaft rhythmically. “It’s been too long Gwilym, take me here and now.”
          “The boys–” he began.
          “–will stay in the pavilion.” She removed her shift with one shrug and kissed him again, hard on the lips, her tongue probing. Her hand loosened his clothing and released his sex. She pumped it to a steely hardness. She turned from him and leaned over, holding onto a tree trunk and arching her back to thrust her buttocks towards him. Gwilym didn’t hesitate. He grasped her by the narrow waist, his thumb and forefingers meeting each other while the palms of his hands spread along the swelling of her buttocks. He marveled at the softness of her, the white skin decorated by occasional freckles. He entered her warm wetness, eliciting a moan of pleasure. He withdrew slowly, and then thrust in hard, each time receiving verbal confirmation that this was just how she wanted it. Her moans built to a crescendo and he timed his climax to match hers. Her legs quivered in excitement, she lost muscle control and he had to hold her weight by the waist to keep her from collapsing.
          He withdrew and redressed, thankful that her boys had obeyed her and stayed in the pavilion. His boys. Their boys! Grainne dressed herself and then hugged him, hanging from his shoulders. “That was wonderful, Gwilym. I can wait until Beltane now that you’ve tempered the fire in me a little. Where did you learn how to make love to a woman?”
          “I was a married man for ten years.”
          “That’s not where you learned how to make love. Who was she? How old were you? How old was she? Give me details.”
          “The name she used was Fatima. She never told anyone her real name. She was a Jerusalem prostitute who took a fancy to me. I was fifteen. She must have been about 35. She taught me what women like. She showed me everything. Literally. I was so embarrassed when she opened herself up to me but she wanted me to know what a woman looks like inside. She showed me where to touch, what to do, when to be gentle, when to be harsh. She taught me how to read a woman’s signs and how to follow them.”
          “How long were you with her?”
          “At first for six months. Then off and on until I married Kaitlyn 12 years later”
          “And she never charged you, all those times?”
          “She charged me a few times.”
          Grainne’s eyebrows arched. “A few times. Why?”
          Gwilym gave a rueful smile. “She charged me whenever she felt I took from her. If the lovemaking was respectful and giving and her needs were attended to, she never charged me. I was a poor child so I learned quickly.”
          Grainne’s face broke into a wide smile. “I think I’ll start that policy myself. There have been a few times that I felt I should have been paid for what some lover did to me. Not you, though. That’s why I wondered who taught you. Now, let’s meet your sons.”

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

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. Nov 11, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

I'm currently unemployed and want to boost my resume to increase my chances of being hired as a Project Manager. The state of New Jersey is offering me money to get some training. Would you suggest taking a training course in Project Management or a PMP prep course?

Novice in Morristown, NJ

Dear Novice,

The two different courses you mention serve two very different purposes. I teach both so I can provide a perspective.

A PMP Prep class will help you memorize the terminology, tools, inputs and outputs, processes and knowledge areas that comprise Project Management accourding to the Project Management Institute, (PMI). While you'll learn a lot of cool stuff, you won't know when to use the tools. More and more companies are asking for the certification so it will look good on your resume.

A course in Project Management will tell you when to use the tools and give you practice in using them. A good course will use all the PMI terminology so there is no confusion when you use the terminology with others. When you're hired as a Project Manager, you will be expected to know these skills.

If you are fortunate, you can take both courses. In that case, take the PM course first and learn how to use the tools, then add those formal training hours to those you need to sit for your PMP test. Then take the PMP prep course, pass the PMP exam and your resume should be ready. You will not only have the certification but the knowledge of how to use the tools.

If you only have money for one or the other, take the PM course. It will help you more in the long run if you know how to use the tools than it will to have the certification but not the knowledge how to use the tools. You can always tell future employers that you are working on your certification. Then take the PMP Prep course later.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Great leader in crisis dies

A great leader in a crisis that surfaced 30 years ago died today. Read his obituary in the Times for details of how Lawrence Foster helped restore confidence in Tylenol after 7 people were poisoned to death in Chicago back in 1982.

Invoking Robert Wood Johnson's famous credo whose first line refers to responsibility to patients using their products, Foster said: ‘This is the principle we’re going to follow. We’re going to tell them what we know, and we’re not going to tell them what we don’t know. We’ll tell them we don’t know, and we’ll get back to them when we do know.’ 

Then he proceeded to do the right thing, regardless of the cost, always thinking of his customers. Read what the Times obit had to say:

The strategy, which was widely viewed as a model of corporate crisis management, was to put consumer safety first, to respond to the media with alacrity and to be entirely honest.
The company suspended all advertising for Tylenol and issued a national recall of Extra Strength Tylenol capsules — more than 30 million bottles — spending more than $100 million in the process. Mr. Burke appeared on television to explain the steps the company had taken.
The plan succeeded, and though many thought consumers would never trust Tylenol again, its manufacturer, the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary McNeil Consumer Products, reintroduced the brand two months later in new, ostensibly tamper-proof packaging. Within a year, Tylenol’s share of the $1.2 billion analgesic market, which had dived after the poisoning to 7 percent from 37 percent, had climbed back to 30 percent.
 What a relief, seeing a leader who didn't try to cover-up, obfuscate or weasel out of a crisis. Too bad I had to go back 30 years to find this example.

Here's the credo:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Art of Project Management - Chapter Four

Having recently read Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' I saw many similarities between war and managing projects. Call the enemies risk and chaos and most of the 2,500 year old advice applies quite well. So I am going to dedicate a few posts to what I humbly call: 'The Art of Project Management.' I give Sun Tzu full credit for his observations. I simply paraphrase him to shift the advice to my field.
 Chapter Four
1. Sun Tzu said: The control of a large project is the same in principle as the control of a small project: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.
2. Executing with a large team under your control is nowise different from executing with a small team: it is merely a question of organizing your project schedule.
3. To ensure that your project may withstand the brunt of the risks and chaos of the real world and remain unshaken - this is effected by calendars, durations and networks.
4. That the impact of your project may be like a grindstone dashed against an egg - this is effected by the science of critical and non-critical paths.
5. In all Project Management, calendars may be used for execution, but networks will be needed in order to secure success.
6. Networks, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible as Heaven and Earth, unending as the flows of rivers and streams; like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to return once more.
7. There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combination of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.
8. There are not more than five primary colors (blue, yellow, red, white and black), yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever be seen.
9. There are not more than five cardinal tastes (sour, acrid, salt, sweet, bitter), yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.
10. In Project Management there are not more than three scheduling elements - calendars, durations and networks; yet these three in combination give rise to an endless series of schedules.
11. Calenders, durations and networks lead to each other in turn. It is like moving in a circle - you never come to an end. Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination? 
12. The onset of execution is like the rush of a torrent which will even roll stones along in its course. 
13. The quality of a decision os like the well-times swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.
14. Therefore the good Project Manager will be terrible in his execution, and prompt in his decision.
15. Scheduling may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision to the releasing of a trigger.
16. Amid the turmoil and tumult of execution, there may be seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all; amid confusion and chaos, your team may be without head or tail, yet it will be proof against defeat.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Obamacare Project Doomed to fail

The online sign-up portion of the Affordable Care Act, affectionally known as Obamacare, was rolled out last week to a resounding failure. Why did it fail? It was set up to do so by the government. Let's look at some key strategies for failure.

  1. Force participation by people from every congressional district so that there is no clear leadership
  2. Put it on hold during the sequestration crisis
  3. Maintain an artificial deadline that is linked to elections, not the likely date that the system is actually ready to go
  4. Put it on hold again during the goverment shutdown
  5. Have half your stakeholders working to force it to fail so that they will feel vindicated by its failure (I love this great example of negative stakeholders to use during my training classes)
  6. Refuse to delay the go-live despite to all the previous delays
  7. Cut the testing time to a couple of weeks to ensure the go-live occurs on time
The company I work for now spends a lot of effort doing computer system validations. While I usually stay above the fray, concentrating on the project management aspects, I recently jumped in to assist in the testing phase of a moderate computer system at a small pharmaceutical company. This testing phase will take four months when complete. How did anyone expect Obamacare to be tested in a matter of weeks?

I'm glad to see the Project Manager taking responsibility for the failure. I only wish she had stuck up for her team and refused to honor the artificial deadline imposed by the president. It would have been late but it would have been properly tested. A poor roll-out spoils the program for future users. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. Nov 4, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

I was taking a PMP Prep course recently and a question used the term: "Max Crash Days." This was on a question about decreasing the critical path of a project using crashing and fast tracking. How does one determine Max Crash Days? Shouldn't you be able to crash further?

Crasher in Washington D.C.

Dear Crasher,

Crashing is the process of adding resources to an activity in the hopes of decreasing the duration. This works to a certain extent but not infinitely. The classic example is asking nine women to reach full term pregnancy in one month. Real examples are the addition of a person and another lathe to a metal shaping activity which can halve the duration but eventually you run out of people, or lathes or shifts and you reach that max crash state.

Other tasks are delayed by adding resources. Creation of a document can be an example of this where two minds add inefficency to the activity.

For the purpose of the PMP test, they need to tell you the max crash since they usually don't specify the actual activity and you just look at Activity B and say to yourself: "Let's double the resources and halve the time."

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Seventy-second excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          January snows and spring thaws caused a lot of delays to the tower building and Gwilym became concerned that he had given the men so much good building time off around Christmas. The men were in high spirits, however, and they pushed through each delay. Gwilym was able to use the extra money earned from selling the mosaic to buy the supplies and extra manpower he needed to push through the delays. Fred left two weeks before his child was due.
          As Beltane approached, Gwilym spent some of his spare time scouring the countryside for the capstone for this tower. He knew that it would be placed so that the design pointed back to Huish. But where was it? In Huish it had appeared next to the tower through the use of some magic. He suspected Merlin. At Airmyn it was lying under all the supplies as if it had been purchased for the job. In Londinium, the capstone was already in place and just had to be removed and replaced on the rebuilt tower. And in Caernarfon he had sat on it after capturing the prince. What was the pattern?
          He knew there was magic involved. His hair had stood on end at the appearance of the first stone. He recognized that he needed to leave this activity to Merlin and Grainne to accomplish, even though he had taken responsibility for it on the Network Diagram.
          Two days before Beltane and all was ready but the cap-stone. The crew all gathered around Gwilym looking expectant. They had cleaned every last part of the tower and grounds, built the road and tidied up the remains of the palace. Gwilym could think of nothing else to keep them busy. Tollemache asked the obvious question. “Vere is de capstone, Gvilym?”
          “The capstone is being delivered by two friends of mine who will arrive in the next two days. When it comes, we will gather together, pull it into place and the tower will be finished. Until then, you are all on Holiday!”
          The men cheered and ran to the tavern. “But stay close so I can call you when the stone arrives!” Gwilym shouted.

          Gwilym found himself walking down the road heading to the south, the direction from which he expected Merlin and Grainne to come. He was surprised to find his excitement rising. He tried to tell himself it was because he was nervous about the stone but he knew, deep in his heart, that he missed Grainne. She had infuriated him at their last meeting, calling on the Goddess to make him venerate her. Yet he missed her and found he could forgive her this act.
          He felt a strange aching on the inside of his arms. The last time he had felt this was when he had realized he had fallen in love with Kaitlyn. The only thing that removed that ache was to hold her in his arms, her body fitting against that place in his arms. This time he felt it in his chest also, an emptiness where Grainne belonged.
          But how can that be? I hardly know her. This relationship was completely upside down. Their meetings had been all in the wrong order. The first time she was the mother, had nursed me back to health while I lay unconscious. The second time she was the death-crone, telling me about my dead wife. Then she was the maiden, seducing me on the rune capstone of the first tower. The same thing happened again at Airmyn and Londinium although I managed to snatch a brief conversation with her: a conversation that turned into a serious religious argument. Then she had saved my children’s lives when I needed her the most. Then another sexual encounter on a capstone. What kind of a basis was this for love?
          He compared this to his first love, Kaitlyn. He had seen her first walking through the warrens of Jerusalem in a group of foreigners. He had been captured by her dark looks, her haunted eyes and then, that smile. All the people surrounding her reacted to her smile. Gwilym saw that they all loved her. They were old and young, man and woman, but they all were drawn to her like bees to the honey cakes in the market. Gwilym followed the group, tying to see more of her.
          Following close enough to hear their words, he recognized some Cambrian words his father had taught him when he was a boy. Gwilym’s mother was Cambrian. Short and dark, with milky white skin and full red lips. Gwilym had asked his father why he had left his mother. And one night, Willem had told his son everything he would ever say about her. “I met her in Glastonbury, on my search for Joseph’s Gospel. You were a child of the Beltane fires. While she loved you, her duties meant that she had to foster you out. She sent you to me.”
          Gwilym had imagined his mother since then but this was the first time he had seen someone whose looks fit his image. Of course, this girl was too young, younger than Gwilym, even. But she had captured his heart in an instant with that smile and he had to talk with her.
          He offered his assistance to the group, telling them he spoke their language and knew all the Holy Sites. He was careful to address the oldest man in the group but he watched Kaitlyn out of the corner of his eye. On seeing him, she shrunk back and covered her mouth, not quickly enough to stifle the slight scream. Gwilym was astonished and looked back at the leader of this group for an explanation.
          “It’s not your fault, son,” he said in the lilting style of the Cambrian. “She fears you because you look like the men who plundered her town and murdered her family.”
          Gwilym’s heart had sunk at this, seeing the fear he had caused and regretting the consternation he had put on her face. He regretted most of all the loss of that smile. He pointed the leader in the direction of the Temple wall, bowed his head and walked off. But he could not forget her so he followed the group at a discrete distance.
          He made a fool of himself for the next three days, walking past the group for a brief glimpse of her, then circling through the back streets at a run to walk past them again. He would wander past them as they toured the mount of Calvary, the Garden of Gethsemene, Herod’s palace. Each time he would try to see her without her seeing him. The other members of the group figured out what he was doing and would laugh amongst themselves whenever he made an appearance. He overheard one say to the girl, “Kaitlyn, that Saxon has fallen for you.” So her name was Kaitlyn; lovely.
          On the third day a miracle happened. They were walking by the tomb from which Jesus had been raised and he was making his third pass by the group. Kaitlyn reached out her hand and stopped him. “I’m not scared of you anymore. You can stop running past me. Tell me your name.”
          They talked then, and Gwilym showed the group around the city, to the places he loved, the honest traders, the secret pools and gardens, the tall towers and cool churches. He used the knowledge his father had given him to have them walk in Jesus’ footsteps, from His teaching in the temple to His triumphant entrance to His crucifixion. He knew his craft well, having done it many times in the past for money. This time he refused all payment.
          They told him that they were going from here to see the rest of the Holy Sites and Gwilym offered to accompany them as their guide. They agreed and he toured with them for three months, from the Cedars of Lebanon to the Pyramids of Egypt. Along the way he learned all about the beautiful Kaitlyn’s tragic story.
She had been hiding in the forest with the children, old men and women when Saxon warriors had attacked their village. She had climbed a tree and watched as they defeated the men and looted the town. Then a group had charged the forest and overtook the frightened villagers. She had watched from above in mute terror as her mother and sister were raped and carried off. Her brother was slain before her eyes. She thanked God that they hadn’t looked up and she vowed a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to pray for her family and villager’s souls and to thank Him for her safety. She had joined this group of pilgrims and had walked here the whole way from Cambria.
          She was 16 and not romantically attached to any of the men in her party. It was clear to Gwilym that they were all in love with her. While they were happy with his guidance through the Holy Land, once they realized that he was making progress with Kaitlyn, they tried to get rid of him. But Gwilym was resourceful and used his connections to remain valuable to the group and his charm to cause Kaitlyn to beg the others that he remain their guide.
          When the pilgrims had seen everything, they made plans to return to Cambria. On the night before they were all to leave Gwilym expressed his love to Kaitlyn and received a short laugh in reply. This broke his heart but she had squeezed his arm and told him, “I’m laughing because I’m nervous. I think you are wonderful but I don’t love you. You barely know me and I don’t know you. You say you love me. Men say that to me all the time. Is it because they all want to get under my skirts?”
          “Kaitlyn, believe me, when men say that to you, it’s true. I’ve never seen a woman who inspires so much good in the men who meet her. Plenty of women inspire men to want to get inside their skirts; that’s no great talent. You inspire them to want to marry you, to be with them until they’re old, to bear children for them. You have something special, Kaitlyn, something the Visigoths call ‘Gracia,’ something I’ve read about, but never seen. I love you, and want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to protect you from all harm, to have children with you and raise them well, to grow old with you, and to protect you from the fears of old age. I want to build you a strong house that will keep you warm and comfortable. I want to read to you and play with you and travel with you.”
          “Gwilym.” Kaitlyn wept softly and pointed at the statues surrounding them. “You have me up on a pedestal like one of these statues. What will happen if you marry me and find out that I am a mere mortal who cannot live up to your ideal image of me? What will happen when I fart in your hearing?”
          Gwilym burst out laughing at this unexpected comment, the gas that he had been holding in during this long day with her releasing with a loud BRAPP! She looked at him with wide eyes and open mouth and laughed too. Looking at each other, they lost all control and their laughter increased. Then Gwilym thought he heard a little fart from her and he stopped in surprise. She blushed red and held her breath, waiting for Gwilym’s reaction. He hugged her then for the first time and lifted her off her feet. This contact was new and unexpected and combined with the release of tension and the tight squeeze she received released another, louder, fart and they both burst out laughing again. “Well, I guess now you know how I’ll react. I love you Kaitlyn.”
          On telling this story to his sons he had gotten different reactions. Llawen had laughed at the image but Jac had seemed confused at the laughter. He held an idealized image of his mother in his mind and couldn’t understand why Llawen and his father found it so funny that: “All you two did was laugh and fart.”
          What Jac missed was that it was a tender moment, when barriers broke down and they saw the humanity in each other and decided that they would get to know each other better. Kaitlyn stayed behind, much to the consternation of the rest of the group. She had money and was able to stay in a pilgrim’s inn so they needn’t worry about her chastity. The two spent the next few months learning all about each other. The romance blossomed. Gwilym worked as a tour guide for different groups of pilgrims, amazing her with his grasp of different tongues and his in-depth knowledge of the life of Jesus and the prophets.
          On agreeing to marry, he asked her where, expecting that she wanted to return home. But she had no family there so they married in Cana for the sake of the name. They toured Constantinople for their honeymoon and she soon became pregnant with Bleddyn. Then she wanted to return to Cambria so they continued back along the pilgrim trail, arriving a couple of months before the birth.

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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Art of Project Management - Chapter Three

Having recently read Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' I saw many similarities between war and managing projects. Call the enemies risk and chaos and most of the 2,500 year old advice applies quite well. So I am going to dedicate a few posts to what I humbly call: 'The Art of Project Management.' I give Sun Tzu full credit for his observations. I simply paraphrase him to shift the advice to my field.

Chapter Three
Risk Management

1. Sun Tzu said: The good Project Managers of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, then waited for an opportunity of defeating the project risks.
2. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating risks is provided by the risks themselves.
3. Thus the good Project Manager is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the risks.
4. Hence the saying: One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.
5. Security against defeat implies risk management; ability to defeat risks means Planning Risk Responses.
6. Risk Avoidance indicates insufficient strength; Risk Acceptance, a superabundance of strength.
7. The Project Manager who is skilled in Risk Avoidance hides in teh most secret recesses of the earth; he who is skilled in Risk Acceptance flashes forth from the topmost heights of heaven. Thus on the one hand we have the ability to protect ourselves; on the other, a victory that is complete.
8. To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence.
9. Neither is it the acme of excellence if you execute and succeed and the whole organization says "Well done!"
10. To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength; to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a sharp ear.
11. What the ancients called a clever Project Manager is one who not only succeeds but excels in succeeding with ease.
12. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage.
13. He succeeds in his projects by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory; for it means conquering risks that have already been mitigated.
14. Hence the skillful Project Manager puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating his risks.
15. Thus it is in Project Management that the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.
16. The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success.
17. In respect of Risk Management, we have, firstly, Plan Risk Management; secondly, Identify Risks; thirdly, Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis; fourthly, Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis; fifthly, Plan Risk Responses; sixthly, Monitor and Control Risks; seventhly, Success.
18. Plan Risk Management owes its existence to the organization; Identify Risks to Plan Risk Management; Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis to Identify Risks; Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis to Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis; Plan Risk Responses to Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis; Monitor and Control Risks to Plan Risk Responses; Success to Monitor and Control Risks.
19. A successful project opposed to a failed one, is a pound's weight placed in the scale against a single grain.
20. The onrush of a well-planned project is like the bursting of pent-up waters into a chasm a thousand fathoms deep.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. Oct 28, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

My company has been unstable lately and my team members are leaving for more secure opportunities. What do I do with the schedule now that fewer and fewer people are working on the same amount of activities?

Sinking Ship in Washington, D.C

Dear Sinking Ship,

I'm hoping you resource-loaded your Project Schedule to show the effort required for each activity. That way you can show how many hours of effort are required. Remember, the hours don't leave with the vanishing team member.

You can then reassign those hours to the remaining team members and level the work to reflect that they only work 8 - 10 hours a day.

This inevitably results in lengthening the duration of the activities and the end date of your project. If anyone argues about your lengthening schedule, show them the facts that indicate why this was necessary.

If you weren't proactive enough to load your project correctly before, sit down with your existing team and plan out the number of hours of effort on the remaining activities and schedule them according to the availability of these resources. Now you just have to tell management: "I had thirteen team members, I'm down to ten, here's the effect on my schedule. If I lose any more, it will increase in duration, if you give me additional resources, I can reduce the schedule. The two go hand in hand."

Good luck,

PM Advisor.

Send your questions to Bruce@RoundTable

Thursday, October 24, 2013

PMBOK 5th edition exam aid

Back in 2011 I posted some aids to help you study for the PMP exam. But the cheat sheet I asked you to memorize and recreate once you get into the exam room has been significantly obsoleted by the fifth edition of the PMBOK.

So I've created a new one for you. You need to print out page one on legal size paper. A3 should work for Europeans.

Get access to a word version of it by clicking on this link:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Art of Project Management - Chapter Two

Having recently read Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' I saw many similarities between war and managing projects. Call the enemies risk and chaos and most of the 2,500 year old advice applies quite well. So I am going to dedicate a few posts to what I humbly call: 'The Art of Project Management.' I give Sun Tzu full credit for his observations. I simply paraphrase him to shift the advice to my field.

Chapter Two

1. Sun Tzu said: In the execution of a project, where there are in the field ten extended team leaders, as many technical experts and a hundred team members, with supplies to run the project for one year, the expenditure at home and in the field, including the entertaining of customers, small items such as paper and shipping, and sums spent on travel and housing, will reach the total of $30 million.
2. When you engage in project execution, if success is delayed in coming, the team member's skills grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay a protracted siege to an obstacle, you will exhaust your strength.
3. Again, if the execution is delayed, the resources of the company will not be equal to the strain.
4. Now, when your skills are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other companies will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.
5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid waste in moving to execution too fast, cleverness has never been associated with long delays.
6. There is no instance of a company having benefited from a long delayed project.
7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the complexities of project executions that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.
8. The skillful Project Manager does not ask to increase the budget, neither are the same parts ordered twice from his vendors.
16. Now in order to work long hours when required, the team must be roused to excitement; that there may be advantage from completing the project, they must have their rewards.
17. Therefore in weekend and late night work, those should be rewarded who volunteered first.
20. Thus it may be known that the Project Manager is the arbiter of people's fate, the man on whom it depends whether the company shall succeed or fail. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. Oct 21, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

My project was just cancelled even though I was ahead of schedule and under budget. My management says it's not my fault and they cancelled it for business reasons. But I still feel like a loser and find myself having to justify the project cancellation to my friends and co-workers. Any words of consolation?

Failure in Washington, D.C.

Dear Failure,

When I audit companies for adherence to Good Project Management Practices, I take the cancellation of the occasional project as a sign of good health. Bad ideas that are pushed through to completion just because we've already spent a lot of money and time on them is a sign of bad health.

Project are cancelled for any number of reasons, not all to do with the performance of the team. Your project might have been cancelled because your competitor came out with a product that made your project obsolete. Or there may have been two competing projects in your organization and the other one looked more promising at this point. Or there may not be enough resources to staff all the projects and there was another project added to the list that has a better payback than yours.

Often it is the job of a Project Manager to recommend the cancellation of their own project. Perhaps a technical obstacle proves to be too expensive to resolve.

None of these reasons are any reflection on the skill of the Project Manager. You did the best job you could shepherding the project to this point and you will be rewarded (punished) with annother challenging project.

Chin up!

PM Advisor.

Send your questions to