Saturday, March 30, 2013

Why doesn't the Egyptian Leadership prevent rapes?

In Mubarak's Egypt, with the omnipresent police force, women walked the streets in relative safety. Now, under the auspices of the Muslim Brotherhood, there can be as many as 18 rapes in a single square in a single evening. Most are gang-rapes by groups of men.

The response by the Muslim Brotherhood? "Sometimes a girl contributes 100% to her own raping when she puts herself in these conditions." Read the NY Times article for more shocking details.

Some ultraconservative Islamists condemned the women for speaking out: "You see those women speaking like ogres, without shame, politeness, fear or even femininity," declared a televisions preacher, Ahmed Abdullah, also known as Sheik Abu Islam.

Such a woman is 'like a demon,' he said, wondering why anyone should sympathize with those 'naked' women who 'went there to get raped."

On YouTube you can find videos of these horrific attacks.
I think a fair judgement of the effectiveness of any government is how well it protects its people. Using this creterion, the new Egyptian Government is extremely ineffective.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

PMBOK Process map

The latest PMBOK has a real lousy process map so I created my own. Here is a link to the PowerPoint version. Enjoy.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. March 25th, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

I've been taking PMP Practice tests and struggle with the scenarios where they ask what you should do. All the options seem to be good ideas. Any hints?

Puzzled in Manhattan.

Dear Puzzled,

The question formulators have typically left out one word: First.

I have found that when adding that word at the end of the sentence: What should you do first? the answer becomes more clear. Usually all the options are good but they want to know what is the first thing the PM should do given the scenario described previously.

This is not always the case, sometimes they have included the word first and you don't need to add it yourself.

But there also seems to be another trend the PMI wants. Whenever an option suggests talking to your boss, asking your boss, advising your boss of something bad, reject it. Let me make this clear. PMI says reject it, I don't. This has always seemed like a bad career choice to me. I always suggest keeping your boss informed and asking his/her advice. But, for some reason, the PMP exam wants you to solve all the problems within a vacuum.

This two pieces of advice should help you with 95% of the scenario questions.

  1. Add the word: first
  2. Reject any answer that suggests talking with your boss.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fifty-sixth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers.'

          Before the wedding feast was over, Gwilym and his family said their good-byes and traveled back down the road to Londinium. They spent the next few days camping or staying at hermitages or taverns but always making their way north and east. They spent an entire day passing through a deep forest, arriving at a crossroads tavern just before evening. Both these roads were solid, Roman construction. The tavern was well appointed with a large stable and several outbuildings. Asking the tavern-keeper about it after his rushing about during supper, he found that this was the only settlement in this vast forest, where the North-South road met the East-West road. It was a day’s ride from either edge of the forest to this point making this a prosperous and expensive establishment.
          Gwilym fell into conversation with a contingent of King Arthur’s soldiers who were stationed here to patrol the forest. They remarked on his claims of extortion. “Sure it’s expensive, but it’s cheaper than exposing yourself to the bandits in those woods. Money well spent.”

          A day’s journey east of this forest, Gwilym noticed something and remarked upon it to his sons. “Remember how in Huish and Caernarfon the men were all short with dark hair and brown eyes? Look at the people here.”
          The boys looked around and noticed that there was a mixture of types. There were people that had Gwilym’s Saxon look mingled in with Cambrian looking people. The further east they traveled, the more Saxon types they found. Once, in a tavern, they asked a Cambrian-looking man about it. “It wasn’t like they came in battle. One day we were walking in the woods and there was this Saxon family, cutting down trees and making a farm. The land didn’t belong to anyone so we left them alone. Others came and we started trading with them. They’re peculiar folk but they don’t bother us.”
          Bleddyn asked his father later as they all slept in the common hall. “I thought the Saxons came with armies and killed the locals and took over their land. Then the British kicked them out and took their farms back.”
          “Life is always a little more complicated than it’s made out to be. Remember when we were at Airmyn? I think there was war at first but now they are living in a kind of truce. Maybe people left that area and moved here, knowing the land wasn’t owned and just wanting peace. Most people just want that. What did you find out about them while you were there? Why did they leave Saxony?”
          “They were being pushed out by invaders from their east called Huns. Some say they were invited by the king to come and defeat the Caledonians. And they’re not only Saxons. Some get upset by that. They call themselves Angles. They are a different tribe.”
          “When will we see Fred again, Da?” asked Jac.
          “He wants to spend a few days with his new wife. But he’ll travel fast without us so he should join us soon after we arrive in Salthouse.”
          “That’s a funny name, Da. Do they store salt there?” asked Llawen.

          Climbing the last hill before their destination, they came upon the remains of an old Roman settlement overlooking the ocean. There was a large palace flanked by several manor houses and many outbuildings. Most were in good condition. Some of the roof tiles were missing or broken but the stone walls appeared in good repair.
          They had been traveling along a Roman road and noticed a working aqueduct approaching the settlement from the west. This was made of clay half pipes, each about four feet in diameter, supported by thick log posts. As the wind shifted in their faces, they caught the strong stench of cow dung. Gwilym followed his nose to a large herd of cattle being led into the largest building of the settlement. So they are using the old palace as a stable? Interesting.
          They bypassed the settlement and descended the hill to the village. There they found the inn. The village was not on the waterfront but on a river that bordered a marsh extending for about a quarter mile before the beach. The buildings here were all built in the longhouse style of Angles and Saxons. Logs formed the walls and a high peak topped by an ornately carved ridgepole anchored the thatched roof. The inn had a porch that extended over the southern windows at an angle that shaded the windows in summer when the sun was high, but allowed it in during the low sun winters.
          Gwilym requested food and lodging. The inn-keeper asked to see his money. Gwilym showed the man his silver which he examined minutely. He weighed ten pieces on a scale and cut one in half and squinted at the cut edge. Finally he nodded and told Gwilym, “Four of dese silver per veek for your room and board, plus anoder five silver for meals for de zree boys.”
          Gwilym said, “The two little ones together eat less than the big one does. Better make it three silver for their meals.”
          “Vy don’t ve see how much dey eat?” and he motioned them to sit.
Bleddyn took the board from the wall and the family sat on two benches facing each other with the board resting on their knees. The inn-keeper served them a stew, a slice of hard black bread and some ale. After eating, the children went exploring while Gwilym settled up with the inn-keeper. They agreed on eight silver pieces a week. Gwilym spoke with the locals who were arriving to see the newcomers.
          “I come with a commission from the High King to build a watchtower up on the hill,” he announced. “I will be hiring many workers over the next ten months to complete this tower. I will give you time off to harvest your crops. Tomorrow, come to me and tell me your skills and I will try to find work for you.”
          The men murmured amongst themselves, Gwilym overheard the complaint, “Not like there’s ever much to harvest.” Some stepped forward, offering their services as masons, sawyers, laborers, etc. “Where is the tower to be built?”
          “It is to be built at the corner of the old palace. On land owned by Anian. Is Anian present?”
          At this, the men burst out laughing, confusing Gwilym. “What? Why do you laugh?”
          One of the larger men approached Gwilym. “Dat old fool vill never sell you his palace. It is full of his shit.”
          At this word, the men burst out laughing, even louder than before, holding on to each other, weeping with mirth. Gwilym waited and drank his ale until they had calmed down again.
          “If Anian won’t sell, I’ll be on my way. Sorry about the offer of work.”
          This wiped the smiles off the men’s faces. “Vait, vait!” said the tall man. “Does de king say he must haf de palace?”
          “Vell, den Anian must sell. But de palace is full of shit. Cow-shit, bull-shit. He has been using it as a barn for his cows for tventy years and has never cleaned it out. Dat’s de horrible smell of dis town.”
          “Sounds like the first job we’ll have to do is clean out the stables.”
          Grins appeared on the men’s faces. “Do you haf any idea how much shit a thousand cows make in tventy years? That will take all of us two years to shovel out. I’ll take you to Anian tomorrow and you can see for yourself.”

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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Emperor has no clothes!

So the tribes were mixed up and three more people were exposed to Phil’s delusions of grandeur. He introduced them to the insanity of ‘Stealth R Us’ and they took it all with straight faces. This only encouraged him to go further with his delusions to the point of telling the new people that if any unnamed members of his elite group told them to do something, their test was to obey without question.

What are people thinking? Am I the only person who would tell him to shut up with his childish talk, find others who were annoyed by it and get the maniac voted off? While the tribe members will tell the cameraman that Phil is crazy, they don’t do anything about it. They allow him to continue with his delusions that he is the tribe leader and they vote the way he wants. Unbelievable!

I truly believe that the three newcomers could have aligned with Corinne to vote him off if they had spoken up. Not doing so has sealed their fate. They are now two against four and one of the two voted for the other. They cannot form a voting bloc to be used against tribal factions.

If a team has no respect for their leader, they need to depose them. Someone on that tribe needs to declare: “The emperor has no clothes!”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. March 18, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

I really see the value in prioritizing all the projects we are trying to accomplish but senior staff keeps blowing off the process. Any advice?

Poor Priorities in Staten Island

Dear Poor Priorities,

I'm assuming you are in the same boat as everyone and have more project work than you can handle. If you didn't this would be no problem. You would sit at your desk, twiddling your thumbs until someone came along with some project work for you. You'd do it right away and then go back to twiddling your thumbs. But I doubt you are living in fairyland so you have a familiar problem.

You are busy working on one project when someone else comes along and asks you to do their work instead. It could be two activities from one project or from separate projects. Then a third activity comes along and then a fourth.

The fact that you are writing me to ask this question indicates that you are a dedicated worker who wants to do what is best for your company. You recognize that there are not enough hours in the day to do everything so you are trying to follow the company priority. But the people who should be making those decisions are neglecting their duties. Just like about 3/4 of the companies I deal with.

What can you do? You are not qualified to decide between the priorities of different projects so don't bother. You are qualified to know whether the activity you are working on is or is not on the critical path of its project. If it is not critical path, put that activity off for any critical path activity. If both activities are critical path, you need to prioritize the work yourself.

This is where you get to be creative. You can prioritize any way you like. Alphabetically, first in, first out, last in, first out, by which college the PM went to, whoever shouts the loudest, which softball team the PM plays for, it really is up to you. And since the senior staff is blowing off their job of prioritizing, you don't need to explain yourself to anyone.

My only advice is to prioritize your activities in a way that benefits yourself. Please the PMs who have the greatest influence on your career. Blow off the PMs who have no power. And keep in mind the work-life balance that allows you to enjoy your job.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Leaders always emerge, even on Survivor

Put any group of people together and give them a task and a leader will emerge. On Survivor, this becomes interesting because people who have watched the show believe that leaders put a target on their back. Since every time a tribe loses an immunity challenge, one member is voted off by the tribe, it is often the leader who is voted off. That's the theory anyway and the reason many people have been hesitant to step up to the leadership role on the show. But is this theory even true? I'm going to have to do an analysis on this one day because I have my doubts. I can think of Richard Hatch, Tom Wesson, Yul Kwon, Rob Mariano and Earl Cole as leaders who have gone on to win the show.

It took Rob some time but on his third try he achieved a really weird cult of personality that brought him to the top.

In this season, Phil decided he would be the leader of this group, taking his cue from Rob Mariano. Now Phil appears mentally unstable, delusional in his intelligence and abilities. He is the only survivor whose job is followed by a question mark when he is named on the screen as in: Phil Sheppard, Secret Agent?

Phil took leadership of the tribe because he thought this was the way to win the game. He set up a secret alliance giving everyone strange names like 'Eliminator' and 'Dominatrix'. At that point, tribe members should have brought him back to reality and told him they were not playing his weird game. Instead they played along, encouraging him in his delusions and enlarging his ego.

Finally Brandon called him on the carpet and told him he was talking like a child. He declared that nobody liked the names, or Phil for that matter.
The only problem is that Brandon was the wrong person for the job. He has his own mental problems, that seem to point towards Manic Depression. This led to a fight with Brandon declaring that he is the master of his own destiny. He got himself kicked out by destroying the tribe's food.
What was interesting was that during Brandon's tirade, the 'leader of the tribe' walked off, some might say ran away. That is not leadership.

Things went downhill from there, almost devolving into a fistfight and Brandon got himself kicked off the tribe. The tribe forfeited the immunity challenge and voted him off publically. Very strange!

But this tribe is still without a leader. Someone else needs to tell Phil to knock off the secret agent business and take the reins of this team. They have been lucky so far in winning challenges, in no small part because of the physical strength and comeptitiveness of Brandon. That won't last. It is time for someone else to knock Phil off his perch and return the tribe to sanity.

Click here for the full video:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. March 11, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

I just recently read this part of the definition for Project Sponsor and had to laugh out loud: 'Sponsor's primary job is to remove obstacles.' In my experience, the sponsor spends most of his time creating obstacles for my projects. He's constantly changing requirements and adding features. How do I reconcile this with the PMI Definition? 

Sponsored-out in Woodbridge, NJ.

Dear Sponsored-out,

Sounds like where you work your sponsor is your internal customer. That is a dangerous combination. PMI defines Sponsor as someone OUTSIDE the project for this very reason. That way they can be objective. The Sponsor's job is to use their influence to ensure that the project succeeds without gaining any personal benefit or loss for its success.

I remember the first time I worked in an organization that ran projects properly. I was running a new product development project that was quite R&D-centric. My sponsor was the V.P. of Regulatory Affairs. I wondered how she was going to help me. When there were occasions when I needed to apply more resources or get items through bottlenecks, she would talk to her peers and remove those obstacles quite effectively.

Be very careful about the separation of customers and sponsors. If he is your customer, as I suspect, treat him as a customer. Since he is officially assigned to your team as sponsor, go ahead talk to him as if he was your sponsor but get your obstacles removed that go counter to his best interests by someone else.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fifty-fifth excerpt from 'Twelve towers'

Chapter Five. Salthouse

Gwilym and his boys left two days after Fred, timing their arrival in Huish for the morning of the wedding. The twins were full of questions.
“Can I dress in my bishop’s clothes?”
“And me as a knight?”
“Will we see Heulwen there, too?”
“Which was my milk mother? Heilin or Heulwen?”
“What’s the name of my milk sister?”
“Will we marry our milk sisters one day?”
Gwilym laughed and hugged his boys tight against him.
Then Jac asked, “Why can’t we stay in Huish?”
Gwilym’s smile faded, replaced with a frown of concern. “We need to stay out of sight of that knight, Palomides.”
“But Da,” asked Jac. “I thought you said he couldn’t see us for five years?”
“Only if we stay out of his way. He has spies in Huish, looking for us.”
They spent the evening before the wedding in Brycgstow and left before dawn. They arrived at Fred’s family home in the lake country east of Huish two hours before the wedding was scheduled to begin. Descending to the shores of the lake, they saw thatch roofs scattered randomly round below them, some on the water, others a distance from the shore. Jac and Llawen looked at their father with questioning faces. He told them to be patient and they’d see for themselves how this worked.
As they drew closer to the level of the lake, they saw that the houses were all round wicker-walled homes raised high on stilts. Those whose roofs were above the water had wooden ramps leading to the shore. Stone paths led between the homes. Jac walked deliberately underneath one to inspect its underside. It was woven wicker like the underside of a chair.
“What do they do here, Da?” asked Llawen. “They can’t farm the marsh.”
“I expect they fish the lake,” he replied. “There’s plenty of food in the water.”
“Why are their houses up on poles, Da?” asked Jac.
“This lake rises and falls depending on the rain and sun. The stilts let the houses stay dry.”
Gwilym led them to one house standing above the dry land. One of the poles had curved rungs nailed to it made of antlers. The pole looked like the backbone of a fish. Fred scrambled down this ladder, wearing a new set of clothes. He greeted them with smiles and hugs “We will ride to th’church in a few minutes. Tha will stay by my side, right, Gwilym?”
“We’ll be with you the whole time.”
“You’re marrying my milk mother, Fred,” said Llawen with a serious expression. “Are you Iola’s father now?”
Fred kneeled down to meet Llawen’s eye. “In a couple of hours, lad. And I will take very good care of your sister.”
“Can we dress up in the clothes given us by the king for your wedding, Fred?” asked Llawen.
Fred put his arm around the boy. “I’d love to see you all dressed up, lad. But maybe only wear th’robe and not all th’fancy stuff like th’hat and stole and staff. Th’priest might get confused and expect you to perform th’wedding.”
“I could do it! I know the prayers and everything.”
Fred gave Llawen a serious look. “I’m sure you would do a great job, Llawen. But Heilin wants a legal marriage. For that we need a priest who has taken his vows.”

A few of the lake folk and most of the town attended the wedding. Gwilym stood up front with Fred, facing people Gwilym assumed must be Fred’s family. They were short and dark like him.
Haern brought Heilin up the aisle to Fred and the ceremony began. She was wearing a new dress and her hair was newly washed and decorated with flowers. The smile she wore today showed a level of deep contentment on top of her usual good humor.
Few of the lake people participated in the Mass and even fewer took communion. After the priest pronounced Fred and Heilin man and wife, Fred presented her with a shiny new short-sword. Heilin took a cup of mead from her mother and said, “Fred, take this cup.” Fred looked deep into his new wife’s eyes as he drank from the cup, the villagers cheered and they all went outside where the feast was spread. Gwilym noticed the look of disapproval on the priest’s face at this use of old customs and was happy he said nothing, probably because he was still new to this parish. Too bad Father Drew was gone. He had been inclusive of the old ways.
The feast was held outside Haern’s smithy where boards set up on trestles groaned with a quantity of food and drink. Fred introduced Gwilym to his father, who looked just like an older version of Fred. There was no mention of his mother and Gwilym didn’t like to pry so he continued meeting the rest of his relatives and neighbors from the marshlands. There were ten times as many lake people at the celebration than had attended the ceremony. What religion do they practice on the lake?
Bleddyn presented the couple with a wedding gift that he had carved. It was a perfect miniature rendition of the Huish tower. Fred was speechless and tears came to his eyes. Jac spoke up. “We carved our names in the sides, see?” Fred looked over the sides, seeing a name carved in each of three sides. In the fourth side were carved Fred’s and Heilin’s names with the wedding date and place. Heilin oohed and aahed over it and pronounced it the best piece of carpentry she had ever seen. Fred found his voice. “Tha have a talent, Bleddyn. A God-given talent! Use it well. I love th’gift. I will treasure it always.” He hugged all three boys.
Gwilym stepped up with his gift: A bound book with a set of fine quills and ink. Fred’s eyes grew wide and he opened the book. He looked up in surprise when he found it empty. “To write down your song, or practice your writing, or keep a journal, or whatever you want. Your life now is an open book, Fred. Fill it up for your children.”

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

Friday, March 8, 2013

Concrete Tent

I like this invention. I saw it first on the Youtube video where it is shown as a mobile hospital for use in disaster areas.

The idea is that concrete impregnated fiber is wet, then inflated with a leaf-blower and the structure is allowed to set. This leaves you with a large structure that can be made sterile for use as a hospital.

When I visited the website it showed the military uses of the same technology. Guess where it will make more money?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Two Great Ideas to Quit Smoking

There was an excellent Op-Ed piece in Monday's paper about the efforts to curb the 400,000 American deaths per year blamed on cigarette smoking. Two ideas are being pushed up against the strong pro-tobacco lobby. Let's hope they come to fruition:

1) FDA enforces non-addictive levels of nicotine in cigarettes.
Apparently, the Food and Drug Administration has been given the power to regulate the amount of nicotine allowed in a cigarette as long as they don't regulate it to zero. They do have the right to force tobacco companies to bring it down to a level that is non-addictive. This should cause current smokers to switch to other 'healthier' sources for their daily fix. More importantly it will prevent the next generation from becoming addicted. Which brings us to the second strategy, this one enforced at the local level.

2) Communities refuse to sell tobacco to anyone born in the year 2000 or later.
These kids are just turning 13, (my twins are an example) so what parent could argue against this? Of course, when they turn 18 and can vote, they may have something to say about it. But the idea has merit. We don't care what age they are, if they were born after 1999, they don't get to buy, sell or even possess tobacco. Tasmania, a state in Australia is considering the law.

Maybe Jeff McGinley can rewrite Prince's 1999 along these lines
     They say two thousand zero zero smoking's over oops outta time
      So tonight I'm gonna toke it like it's 1999

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. March 4th, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

I'm sitting for my PMP test soon and can't get straight which processes fit into the Execution group and which in Monitoring and Controlling. I've been a PM for a long time and know they both happen at the same time. But PMI want's you to know the difference. Do you have any hints for getting these questions right? I've taken a few practice tests and keep getting them mixed up. 

Executioner in Branchburg, NJ.

Dear Executioner,

I like to use homonyms to help me remember things like this. In this case, I remember that Measure starts with an M just like Monitor. So if the process includes some kind of measurement, it must fit in the Monitoring and Controlling group. You have to Measure in order to Report Performance or Verify Scope so it must be in this group. The other word is Control and that encompasses all the other processes like Control Costs, Schedule and Scope.

Execution consists of doing the work you planned in the previous phase. Monitoring and Controlling consists of Measuring the output of that work and Controlling the constraints. Of the six constraints on any project: Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, Resources and Risk, all but Resources have a Control Process in this group. I guess the PMI realized there is no controlling of resources.

So look for any aspect of Measurement within the tools used or the word Control within the process and you can be sure that the work falls in the Monitoring and Controlling Group. Otherwise, you are just doing the work, Executing.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Friday, March 1, 2013

French 'Workers'

I laughed out loud when reading this recent article about French workers.

An American executive described French workers to union representatives as such: “The French work force gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They have one hour for their breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three.”

The union reps simply laughed and said, "That's the French way!"

“You can keep your so-called workers,” he wrote. “Titan is not interested in the Amiens factory.”

While this attitude seems funny to Americans, the French 35-hour work week and 17 week annual vacations make France non-competitive in the global market. France is doomed to follow Greece and Spain into default. Their average citizens scoff at paying taxes while Hollande is raising rates to 75% for those earning more than a million Euros a year.

It's time for the French to take a page from the Germans. Work hard, pay your taxes and watch your country thrive. If they continue with the status quo they will have austerity shoved down their throats by the solvent European countries.