Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Leadership for college students

Teresa Crane forwarded me this article and asked if I would like to present it. I agree with all the advice so I post it below. The original article is posted here.

According to The Job Outlook for the College Class of 2013 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), nearly all of the top ten bachelor degrees for hiring in the current job market involve leadership ability. These include some of the most popular degrees offered online, such as business administration and marketing management (November 2012). Furthermore, even if you are an e-learner who does not intend to pursue a direct supervisory role, “leadership” is an often cited soft skill on most prospective employers’ lists of wants for their employees.
Clearly, leadership is a new trend in hiring, and graduates about to enter the workforce must be prepared to develop and demonstrate that they have this talent. But what is meant by “leadership skills,” and how do students, especially e-learners, attain and document that they have such abilities? To help guide you, here is an explanation of what employers are looking for and ways you can show them you have leadership skills.
Leadership Defined
Most experts agree that leadership can be a bit difficult to define. Therefore, David Mielach of Business News Daily went right to the source, the leaders of business and industry, to discover, “10 Ways to Define Leadership” (27 December 2012). The answer that stands out most of all is the definition offered by business consultant, Kendra Coleman:
    Leadership is an act — a decision to take a stand, or step, in order to encourage, inspire or motivate others to move with you. What’s more, the most effective leaders do not rely on their title, or positional power, to lead. Rather, their ability to use their own personal power combined with their use of strategic influence are what make them effective” (qtd. in Mielach. 27 December 2012).
Most see leadership as the ability to take proactive, preventative, results-producing action. This has no connection to a job title or position. Rather, the group of experts Mielach interviewed sees leadership as an inner strength that inspires outward results, a sense of vision that envelops others and guides a team to further success.
There are a few additional traits that are often mentioned.
Additional Characteristics
Some additional attributes of leadership should also be kept in mind. Good leaders are:
    • Flexible with people and situations: According to author and expert trainer, Ken Blanchard, leadership involves the understanding of when to direct, coach, support, and/or delegate to co-workers as a supervisor or team member based on the context.
    • Entrepreneurial/Intrapreneurial: They have the creativity and dynamism to operate outside the box to problem solve and get things done whether you are owning and operating your own business (entrepreneur) or working within an organization (intrapreneur ).
    • Communicative: They possess the ability to get a message across to others and to guide the exchange of ideas verbally or electronically.
Note that some of these attributes are broken down separately on lists of skills employers look for in employees.
Ways to Gain Leadership Skills
There are quite a few ways that students, online or on-ground, can gain leadership experience. You may even be doing some of these already.
    Stand out favorably in class and obtain letters of recommendation from professors, collect relevant feedback (e.g., on assignments from faculty and other students), and save copies of your best work.
    • Lead group projects and document what you did and why; be careful to do this in accordance with the characteristics described above rather than in a pushy way.
    • Take specific courses related to leadership, and if possible, take some independent study classes that would allow you to work with a professor on a topic specifically related to leadership development in your field.
    • Obtain certifications related to leadership by checking what is offered by your school (e.g., See these offerings by Villanova University ) or respected external, career/employer specific programs (e.g., See the U.S. Office of Personnel Management ).
    • Participate in organizations, such as Keith Hawkins’s Real Inspiration, Inc. which provides opportunities to train and get involved in leadership from middle school through college.
    • Seek out positions of leadership in student organizations at your school. Most will list these on their websites as Aurora University does, or consider starting your own group. Some groups, such as The National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) have special leadership development programs and chapters at online universities (e.g., Kaplan University).
    • Consider entry-level jobs, internships/externships, and volunteer positions in which you may develop and increasingly demonstrate leadership skills. Your department and/or school should be able to assist you with finding a suitable position.
How to Document Leadership for Employers
Document leadership
Now that you understand what leadership is and have some ways to gain skills in this area, it’s also time to think about how you will demonstrate this to employers. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
    • Most application processes still rely on the traditional cover letter and resume with transcripts, though often this is presented via an online application site. Follow a functional resume format that will highlight what you can do, and be sure to add a specific (sub)heading for “Leadership Skills.”
    • Online applications will often allow you to attach transcripts, additional documents, and/or electronic links. Take full advantage of these options to add scanned copies of certifications, screen shots of your work, letters of recommendation, sample projects—anything you have done or are currently involved with that shows you are a leader.
    • Software options exist that will also help you demonstrate your leadership skills to potential employers. Consider using Live Binders, Zotero, or screen capture software to assemble a professional overview of your work; then share a link with prospective employers on your resume or in your cover letter.
    • Social media is a powerful tool, and hiring managers are increasingly consulting the digital footprint of job candidates. Carefully brand yourself as an up and coming leader in your field within social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Share links to these sites with prospective employers within your application.
Pursuing, documenting, and demonstrating that you have leadership skills can take time; however, the knowledge that employers are increasingly looking for talent in this area, especially in some of the top career fields, should motivate you to take action. You also do not need to accomplish all of the above steps at once. Rather, try to focus on one or two ways each semester and gradually build an impressive portfolio for employers and online presence that brands you clearly as a leader.
If you have any additional tips or suggestions, please share them in the dialog box below or via Twitter.
Please join Michael on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.
Image courtesy of

Monday, July 29, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. July 29, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

We have a priority list for all our projects. We have thirteen active projects, five in the scarcity zone and a bunch below the line, waiting for other projects to finish up. But now my project, number eight on the list, is missing a specific resource due to a maternity leave. Does this mean we have to move it down below number thirteen into the scarcity zone? 

Scared in Maryland

Dear Scared,

Don't confuse priority with lack of resources. Your project was ranked number eight in importance because that was what the result of this project was worth for the company. Losing resources doesn't lower this priority. 

But you still have a problem. You lost a resource and need to resolve this. I suggest you make an immediate appeal to your company's steering committee. Reinforce the importance of the project to your company. Show them the impact of the loss of this resource to your project's timeline. Ask that they provide a replacement resource immediately. This resource can be a new employee, a temporary employee for the duration of the maternity leave or a consultant. Outline the cost of this resource but be sure you indicate that this is not an additional cost since the company is not paying the lost resource during this time. Allow the steering committee to make the decision and adjust the project plan accordingly. 

If teh steering committee refuses to provide the resource, limp along the best you can but don't lower the project's priority. That is not your job.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sixty-fifth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          Gwilym took his boys out to the remains of the Roman settlement. Jac and Llawen were content to jump from one rock to another or to walk along the walls, trying to maintain their balance. Gwilym showed Bleddyn what the town would have looked like 100 years ago. The palace, barracks, baths, marketplace, and temples. Under the palace, they saw evidence of recent digging which brought Gwilym’s mind back to what Tarrant had been doing in Northwic. Inspecting this, they saw that the diggings went down a few feet and stopped. It was unlikely anything had been taken from here.
          They spent the next week enjoying the town. They visited the church and found the singing was almost as good as that of the Cambrian churches they had enjoyed in previous years. The Mass was said in Latin so the whole family could enjoy it.
          When the weather was clear, they took long walks into the countryside. There were some old Roman villas in this area that were occupied by prosperous merchants or landowners. The family would visit and Gwilym would show off the mosaic. They found a buyer who was willing to give them gold for the mosaic, allowing Gwilym to pay off any debts he might incur for the tower overruns.
          As they left this villa, Gwilym noticed something unusual in their surroundings. This area was almost completely flat but, in the fields surrounding this villa rose a symmetrical, dome-shaped hill.

          He set off across the harvested fields to the hill, finding it abutting the surrounding forest. The boys were excited by the prospect of climbing something so they ran ahead. Gwilym and Bleddyn walked behind until, sensing some danger, Gwilym urged Bleddyn on and raced to the hill, arriving at the top just as Jac and Llawen did. He asked them to be quiet as he explored the hill. It was about 200 feet across and 20 feet high. Looking around at the surrounding countryside he could see nothing like it. There were a few hills around but they looked natural. The dimensions of this hill were too perfect to be made by nature. On top, the boys were climbing up and jumping off a large stone that looked like a fallen, square pillar. Gwilym saw that at one end of the pillar, in the exact center of the hill was a large flat stone. Gwilym surmised that the pillar used to sit on the flat stone.
          Gwilym walked around the lower parts of the hill and noticed something out of the ordinary. While the hill appeared unbreached, there was a worn path leading from a lower section into the woods. Following this path, Gwilym found a huge pile of dirt and rocks that had been recently deposited here. Kicking the top of the pile, Gwilym saw that dust filtered through the rough pile of stones, indicating that it hadn’t rained since the last deposit. He remembered rain five days ago.
          He followed the path back to the hill and saw where it ended. The hill was covered in rough grass, trimmed by the farmer’s sheep in the summer. Feeling around, he discovered a rope hidden in the grass. He pulled on the rope and a 3 foot-wide square of sod lifted up. The sod was supported by a board that fit over a tunnel leading into the hill. Gwilym carefully returned this to its original state, and then went back up to the top of the hill to talk to his boys. Bleddyn gave him a curious look but asked nothing.
          “Let’s go back to town, lads. We’ve got to get ready for Fred. He comes tomorrow night and we’ll leave with him the next day. Any last shopping we need to do before we return to Salthouse?”
          “Yes, Da! We need more taffy!” shouted Llawen, always the one with a sweet tooth.

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

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Donating ideas, not money

Toyota donated their efficiency model to New York's food bank instead of money this year. And what a difference this made.
James Estrin/The New York Times
Daryl Foriest, director of distribution at the Food Bank’s pantry and soup kitchen in Harlem, was skeptical at first of the Toyota engineers’ efforts. “The line of people waiting to eat is too long,” he told them. “Make the line shorter.” They did.
According to this recent NY Times article, teaching the Kaizen model to the food bank decreased lines for dinner from 90 to 18 minutes, filling bags from 11 to 6 minutes and packing boxes from 3 minutes to 11 seconds.

The kitchen, which can seat 50 people, typically opened for dinner at 4 p.m., and when all the chairs were filled, a line would form outside. Mr. Foriest would wait for enough space to open up to allow 10 people in. The average wait time could be up to an hour and a half.
Toyota made three changes. They eliminated the 10-at-a-time system, allowing diners to flow in one by one as soon as a chair was free. Next, a waiting area was set up inside where people lined up closer to where they would pick up food trays. Finally, an employee was assigned the sole duty of spotting empty seats so they could be filled quickly. The average wait time dropped to 18 minutes and more people were fed.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. July 22, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

I've learned to apply measures to my deliverables when planning my projects so that I know when the deliverable is complete. But I recently was handed a project that is very research heavy. We don't know if we can meet the kinds of measures we are applying. What should we do? 

Measure for Measure in Delaware.

Dear Measure for Measure,

I applaud your use of measures when planning a project. How do you know if your project is a success if you don't know what a successful deliverable looks like. The more numbers you add to each deliverable, the better.

But what about a research-heavy project? If your goal is to improve on an existing product or improve efficiencies in operations, the best you can do is set a benchmark and try to meet or beat certain high-level measures. Condust the research with thta in mind and see what you end up with.

When the research is complete and you are moving into development, you should have a better idea of what specific measures get you to those high-level benchmark numbers and you can apply the measures at that point.

Good luck,

PM Advisor.

Send your questions to

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Investing in people

With student loans becoming crippling for new college graduates, some are looking for more creative financing models. Today's Times explores a couple of these new options. In Pave and Upstart, people can invest in students to fund their education or business ideas. For example, one student needs $30,000 in exchange for 7% of his income for his first 10 years in his career.
Stuart Isett for The New York Times
I was intrigued and went on these websites to see who I could invest in. I was disappointed in the few who wanted to fund their education and the plethora of those who want to start some crazy start-up or become well-educated but poorly paid social workers.

I like the idea but want to see more solid investments before I send any of my money their way.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. July 15, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

What's the difference between leadership and developing people? Don't they go hand in hand? 

Unled Brother in Maryland

Dear Brother,

To me, leadership is a fairly nebulous concept that involves getting people to do what you want them to do without forcing them. I constantly seek out examples of good and bad leadership and, while hard to define which is which, as Potter Stewart famously said, 'I know it when I see it.'

People can be led by a great cause, a religion, a feeling that they are superior to their foes, a belief that they areor their leader is invincible, and many other ways. In business, I've seen leaders encourage others through use of peer pressure, company pride, challenging their intellectual curiosity and more.

Developing people is an example of leadership but it is not the only way. One can often lead a team to success by showing how this experience will help develop the team members' skills. But remember Maslow's heirarchy of needs. Developing people's skills only works to motivate some people, not all. It should not be the only tool in your leadership aresnal.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sixty-fourth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          In the middle of the summer, Fred sold his land to one of the wealthy British land owners who farmed on the inland side of the hills. He received triple what he had paid for it and he showed his profit to Gwilym.           “Tha have had time to think on it. Will tha take half th’profit?”
          “No Fred. The idea, the risk, the initiative and the money were all yours. You deserve the profit. I hope you make Heilin very happy in her new house.”
          The tower was proceeding ahead of schedule so Gwilym decided to award the crew a two-week Christmas furlough. Fred took the opportunity to go home and visit his new wife. The boys looked up at their father at this news, but he shook his head. “No boys. It’s too dangerous for us to go there. But we don’t want to stay in this little village all Christmas do we?”
          “No!” they all shouted.
          “So we’re going south to visit Northwic, where we’ll be able to look over the old Roman settlement of Venta Icenorum. It’s a big town with lots to do.” He looked at Bleddyn, “Lots of scrolls to find.” Then at Llawen, “A big church.” Then at Jac, “Maybe even some knights.”
          The boys all brightened up and prepared for the day next week when they would leave. Fred fussed over them traveling without him to manage the horses. “Now, if tha are going to Northwic, I can ride th’horses there and continue on to Huish th’next day. It’s on th’road. And I can pick tha up on my way back here.”
          “Fred. There’s no need to be worried about us. Bleddyn can handle the horses.”
          “Aye, but I’d feel better if I were with tha. I worry about tha.”
          Gwilym smiled at his friend. “We’d love the company, Fred.”

          Gwilym packed up some examples of the tile mosaic from the old palace to see if he could raise some extra money for the tower. The whole family was excited to see something new after almost seven months in this small village.
          After a day’s riding, they crossed the river into the walled city. Northwic was built entirely in the Saxon style. Bleddyn was accustomed to the rectangular buildings by now and remarked to his father how well they fit together in this densely built town. Some of the buildings shared side walls and were able to lean their front walls precariously out into the street due to their stability on the sides.
The day after they arrived in Northwic, Fred trotted off to Huish, promising to return in 12 days and leave from this inn in the morning. Gwilym and his sons explored the city. They visited the stores, buying treats they couldn’t find in Salthouse.
People in Northwic ranged in look from Roman to British to Saxon but the latter predominated. These townsfolk, like those in Salthouse, were used to bartering goods so it took some time to establish the worth of the silver pieces King Arthur had provided.
There were two purveyors of luxury items and Gwilym visited these to see who might be interested in the mosaic. The second place he went into was operated by a tall, skinny man with a receding hairline. He appraised Gwilym and asked to see what the man had to sell or trade. Gwilym showed the man the tile and gave its provenance. The man was interested.
“I can’t buy it outright, because I used the last of my gold to buy some valuable jewelry. I would be interested in trading with you for jewelry.”
Gwilym was dubious and started to walk out, but the man stopped him. “You have to see this stuff. It’s remarkable. And since you like old things, you might be interested.” He went into the back store-room and returned with a heavy box. He opened the lid and showed off what was displayed on the black cloth inside.

          Gwilym whistled. “That’s an old torc. Where did you get it?”
          The man was excited. “Two days past a man came into town selling these. They’re pure gold and he was willing to sell them at the price of the gold. He didn’t realize that these are not only worth jewelry prices but that they are a thousand years old and made for Celtic royalty. I wish I had more money or I would have bought the whole lot. He had many more!” He was rubbing his hands together in excitement.
          Gwilym frowned. “Where did the man get them?”
          “He said that the frost had pushed them up out of his fields. Like stones that always come to the surface during the winter as if they had been planted there.”
          “I’m guessing he didn’t look much like a farmer, though.”
          The man thought for a second and then returned with, “No. Come to think of it, he looked more like a trader, or a craftsman.” The man’s face grew pale and he inspected the torc. “No. It’s genuine. Pure gold, ancient design, you can even see the axe mark here where it was intentionally damaged.”
          “What’s that?” asked Gwilym.
          “Here. See this wedge-shaped nick on the surface. At first I was upset that someone had damaged it retrieving it, maybe the farmer shoveling it up out of his dirt. But I’ve been reading some old scrolls about the Celts and it says they did it on purpose. When they buried the gold with their dead king to ensure a good harvest, they hit the torcs first with axes as part of the ceremony.”
          “So you’ve been dealing with a grave-robber?”
          “Profitably I can tell you. This torc is worth at least 100 times what I paid for it. I need to take it to Londinium or Caerleon to find the right buyer.”
          Gwilym had a sudden thought and turned back to the man. “Did the man who sold you the torc come from the West country?” On receiving a nod in reply he went on. “Was he short, with bandy legs? Did he have dark hair and beady eyes?” Each time he received a nod in reply. The owner was getting nervous.                   “What did he say his name was?”
          The owner avoided Gwilym’s eyes and said, “Ratna. But I don’t think that was his real name. He took too long to say it.”
          Gwilym sighed. “I fear you’ve made a bad trade. This Ratna is not an honest man. I know him as Tarrant and Ranta. Everywhere I’ve run across him he has stolen and murdered and cheated people. He is headed for the gallows if I or any of the king’s men catch him.”
          The man grew fearful again and examined his torc again, scratching at the nick with is fingernail.
          “The torc is genuine,” said Gwilym. “I’ve no doubt of that. But it was stolen out of the grave of a Celtic King. It was buried with great ceremony and magic. They did that to ensure good harvests for the future. Grave-robbers were severely punished, because their greed resulted in tribe starvation.”
          “Well that’s just superstitious nonsense.”

          “Don’t underestimate the power of magic. I’ve seen some things in my time that cannot be explained by anything but magic. If the robbery of this gold causes bad harvests in this town, you’ve made a poor bargain. Your gain in gold will be nothing compared to the loss in life caused by years of bad harvests in this region. You will be affected if your customers are all dead or broke. Those Celts knew what they were doing. They valued gold but the investment it represented in terms of bountiful harvests was a good one. You know the story about the goose who laid the golden eggs? You just killed the goose to get that last egg out.”

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Delhi Metro is a project success

With all the corruption rampant in India, it is a refreshing surprise to see a huge proejct like the Delhi Metro come in on time and budget and actually make money. How is this possible? A great article in Australia's The Age looks into this to find that the project's success hinges on the personality, strength and confidence of the Project Manager, E Sreedharan.

Sreedharan agreed to take on the Delhi metro on one condition: no political interference. He hired a small, motivated staff, solely on merit, paid them well, and sent them overseas to study how the world's best metros worked. He insisted on developing expertise within the organisation, rather than relying on consultants.

Deadlines and budgets had to be realistic and achievable; but once set, they were not to be altered, save in compelling circumstances. Once a decision was made, it was final. If anything went wrong, there was no hunt for scapegoats, only for solutions. A colleague told Forbes magazine that in 30 years of working together, he never heard Sreedharan shout at anyone.

There was no mercy, however, if the issue was corruption, so rife in India. Anyone caught was out immediately. Sreedharan ignored the rule book on competitive tenders to award tenders to firms he trusted - but if they failed to deliver on time, quality and budget, they, too, were out. Politicians used to pulling strings to get jobs or contracts for their allies found their strings were cut.

Mr. Sreedharan was named India's man of the year for his efforts and the government won't let the 81 year-old man retire.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. July 9, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

We are organizing our projects in an effort to start prioritizing them all and staffing up the most important. We are collecting existing projects and resources available to work on projects. The head of R&D seems to be playing the system by not listing his projects as cross-functional and withholding all his resources to work on these 'Internal' projects. Any ideas on how to deal with this?

Resource Hog in Oakland, NJ

Dear Resource Hog,

First of all, congratulations on reaching the PM maturity level where you are actually prioritizing projects. Many companies don't ever get there.

You describe a pretty common problem when companies get to that point. V.P.s and Directors get nervous that this process will slow down their pet projects. Why? Because they are probably not that important to the overall business. They are draining resources away from more important projects. You have to be tough.

The key champion of his prioritization process needs to firmly state the following:
  1. This company does two things:
    • Ongoing Operations which provides the money to bring profits to the organization.
    • Projects which represent an investment in the future so that the company will make even more profits when these projects are complete
  2. Projects only show their profits when they are finished
  3. The company prospers when 5 projects finish, not when 20 projects start
  4. Projects will be prioritized so that we are only working on the most important projects
  5. These projects will be fully staffed from the top down
  6. People not working on Ongoing Operations full time will be placed into the resource pool that will staff these projects
  7. When we run out of resources, we no longer work on less important projects until those projects we are working on complete and resources are freed up
  8. This process will result in more projects finishing per year and more profits for the company
  9. There will be no exceptions to step # 6
Then you need to ensure there is no cheating. Anyone working on a project must record their time as such and only on AUTHORIZED projects stemming from the prioritization process. Stealth projects are fair game for anyone to weed out. Make the offending V.P. or Director defend the Ongoing Operations work his hidden resources are doing. The most effective method will be peer pressure from the other members of the Project Steering Committee running this Prioritization Process.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The inventor of the Internet and the computer mouse dies.

Douglas Engelbart, the computer visionary who changed the way we use computers died this week.

In a single epiphany in 1950, he envisioned the way computing should be done. At this time, huge computers were fed punch-cards by a single person trying to solve one problem at a time. According to this recent NY Times obituary, this is what Dr. Engelbart envisioned back then:

In his epiphany, he saw himself sitting in front of a large computer screen full of different symbols — an image most likely derived from his work on radar consoles while in the Navy after World War II. The screen, he thought, would serve as a display for a workstation that would organize all the information and communications for a given project.

Looks similar to what we do now doesn't it? (Al Gore was 2 years old at the time) But Dr. Engelbart didn't just leave it there. He went ahead and created the elements of this vision.

A decade later he established an experimental research group at Stanford Research Institute (later renamed SRI and then SRI International). The unit, the Augmentation Research Center, known as ARC, had the financial backing of the Air Force, NASA and the Advanced Research Projects Agency, an arm of the Defense Department.
The SRI is widely acknowledged as the founder of the Internet. 
In December 1968, he set the computing world on fire with a remarkable demonstration before more than a thousand of the world’s leading computer scientists at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco, one of a series of national conferences in the computer field that had been held since the early 1950s. Dr. Engelbart was developing a raft of revolutionary interactive computer technologies and chose the conference as the proper moment to unveil them.
For the event, he sat on stage in front of a mouse, a keyboard and other controls and projected the computer display onto a 22-foot-high video screen behind him. In little more than an hour, he showed how a networked, interactive computing system would allow information to be shared rapidly among collaborating scientists. He demonstrated how a mouse, which he invented just four years earlier, could be used to control a computer. He demonstrated text editing, video conferencing, hypertext and windowing.
A prototype of the first computer mouse, which was invented in 1964 by Dr. Engelbart and constructed by two of his associates.
In contrast to the mainframes then in use, a computerized system Dr. Engelbart created, called the oNLine System, or NLS, allowed researchers to share information seamlessly and to create and retrieve documents in the form of a structured electronic library.
The conference attendees were awe-struck. In one presentation, Dr. Engelbart demonstrated the power and the potential of the computer in the information age. The technology would eventually be refined at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center and at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Apple and Microsoft would transform it for commercial use in the 1980s and change the course of modern life.
Years later, people in Silicon Valley still referred to the presentation as “the mother of all demos.” It took until the late 1980s for the mouse to become the standard way to control a desktop computer. 
Check out the presentation here. It's quite eye-opening to see history in the making.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Can we prevent Parkinson's disease in football players?

Another football player succumbed to Parkinson's disease last week. This time it was Jim Hudson, one of the heroes of the Jets' unlikely victory in Superbowl III.
His brain and spine were donated to Boston University to those researching the link between trauma and neurological disease.

“He was a hard-hitting, tough football player,” his wife said. “What he wanted to do was help researchers come up with alternatives to protect players better, especially kids coming up.”

According to this recent article, products are starting to come out that measure the amount and severity of hits to the head. Reebock is selling a washable beanie called ChecklightTM that measures impacts to the head and indicates the severity with a simple yellow or red light.

The X-Patch sends impact reports over wireless to the sidelines.

As a parent and a coach, watching my kids taking hits in soccer games, this is information I want. I attended an excellent concussion training course put out by the CDC and learned that the most important thing to do is to take kids out of the game when they sustain any head trauma. But how do I judge the severity of heading a ball, crunching into another player, banging into a goalpost or just falling down without one of these units?

The NY Times article asks a tough question: Will opposing players try to knock other players out of the game by setting off their sensors? That kind of headhunting would need to suffer serious consequences.

Will one of the answers coming out of this research be that helmets in NFL football actually increase the chances of head injuries because they encourage the use of a helmeted head as a weapon, rather than something to be protected during the game?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Dear PM Advisor. July 1, 2013

Dear PM Advisor,

I work for a Medical Device Company where Change Control is a common part of our lives. We need to use this whenever we make a change to our drawings, processes or even the early design of our products. Now that we are bringing in formal Project Management, we have been asked to add Project Change Control. Does Change Control exist within or outside the Quality System?

Ch-ch-changes in Delaware.

Dear Changes,

Having formal Change Control within your company makes installing a formal Project Management methodology that much easier. Because you are already in the mode of not allowing unauthorized changes to occur within your facility. So the mindset is already there.

But keep Project Management out of your Quality System. You don't want the FDA snooping around your projects because there is too much being done there that doesn't follow exact procedures. Too much ad-libbing.

That being said, the FDA will still expect to see how your new product development projects work their way through your Design Control system. But please separate out Project Change Control from your Quality System's Change Control.

You can use the existing Quality Change Control form as a template but give it a different number and make sure that a different group of people reviews and authorizes Project Change Controls than your Management Review Board. You can also use the existing procedure as a starting point.

Your Project Change Control Review Board should be a subset of your Project Steering Committee. There needn't be a representative from Quality. This is all about managing changes to your projects, not the products that end up being overseen by the FDA.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to