Thursday, January 30, 2014

Diners that linger could bankrupt restaurant

Chang Lee  NY Times
There is a phenomina where elderly men gather in fast food joints to socialize with their peers. Sounds like a good deal until you find out that they are lingering all day over one cup of coffee and are denying seats to other paying customers. While these places don't want to reject paying customers, there is a limit to how much they can extend their welcome to men who split a small fries between four and sit from dawn to dusk.

A recent NY Times article shows how the owners resorted to asking police to get these men to leave. The men chose the McDonalds because it is closer than their social club a mile away. One man argued that it takes more than 20 minutes to drink a large cup of coffee. True but it doesn't take more than an hour.

So what's the win win solution? There must be one since you have two groups that are pretty close together. One group wants a place to eat, drink and socialize and the other group wants paying cutomers to eat and drink but needs a certain amount of income to stay profitable. Could the social club pay money to the McDonalds to subsidize the visits? Should the men agree to spend a certain amount per hour to keep the restaurant from failing? Can McDonalds or the social group open up the space above or next door for the  men? Surely by working together a solution can be reached.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Jan 27, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I saw your post last week about weak, balanced and strong matrix organizational structures and have a follow-up question. What's the difference between Functional and Projectized org structures. It looks like in the functional structure the projects are only being done by the V.P.'s.

Structured. Hartford, CT.

Dear Structured,

In the Functional org structure, projects are done within each department but coordination across departments for the project's sake are done at the department head level. This tends to be old-fashioned project management so we have to picture ourselves back in Henry Ford's day.
Henry Ford tells his people in 1908 that he wants to create a new car: The Model T. He asks the head of R&D to develop the new design. He asks Manufacturing to figure out how to mass-produce it. He asks Finance to figure out how to price it so that every working man can afford it. He asks Marketing to figure out how to get all these families to buy one. Each department head now has one or more projects to run and he is the Project Manager. No team member on R&D can ask a manufacturing team member a question without going through their department heads. 

Coordination BETWEEN projects is done at the department head level. So Henry Ford is the Program Manager and his direct reports are the Project Managers. This is an old-fashioned and extremely inefficient way of managing projects and is rarely seen anymore today. 

Contrast this with a Projectized org. structure:
In this structure there are no department heads, only heads of projects. The CEO recognizes that no ongoing operations are going on in this portion of the company, merely projects. Each Project Manager has at her disposal, all the functions required to run the project: R&D, Manufacturing, Marketing, Finance, QA etc. All these people are fully committed to the project. The PM can hire and fire at will to suit the needs of her project.

This structure works best in companies that have large, LONG-TERM projects. Because when the project is ending, the team member has no place to go and starts getting nervous about his job. Boeing can be run like this, Google cannot.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Seventy-eighth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          During dinner the next day, Merlin rode into the village in a cart, accompanied by Grainne and her two boys. They entered the tavern and asked for some food. Grainne insisted that there be no meat in her stew and the landlord was happy to oblige. Usually he received the opposite request. The boys sat with Gwilym’s other sons. 
          Merlin approached Gwilym with a heavy box that Gwilym knew contained the river jade he needed to finish the tower. Gwilym thanked him. “Do you have enough for the next tower as well?”
          “Do I seem like a man who doesn’t plan for the future?”
          Gwilym smiled. “No you don’t, sir. Will I get the next set right before Beltane again?”
          Merlin’s eyes twinkled. “I understand you had a nice conversation with Grainne yesterday. Did you enjoy meeting your boys?”
          “I did sir,” Gwilym replied, uncertain of any irony in Merlin’s voice about the ‘conversation’.
          “And what are your intentions with her?”
          Gwilym was confused now. Should he approach Merlin with his wish to marry Grainne? Was he being warned away from her by an emissary of Avalon? Or was he Grainne’s protector? He looked at Grainne for assistance but she was busy with the landlord.
          He realized that it didn’t matter. His answer would be the same no matter what Merlin’s role in Grainne’s life was. “I intend to ask her to marry me, sir.”
          Merlin’s tangled bird’s nests of eyebrows shot up and his grey-blue eyes bored into Gwilym’s. “Do you indeed?” he asked.
          When he broke off contact with Merlin’s eyes, he noticed Grainne was watching him. She looked delicious in a light green frock. Her feet were bare and her hair was held back with a string of thin leather. She lit up the room with a broad smile and turned back to the landlord.
          “What will you do with her as your wife, assuming she even agrees?”
          “Live with her, travel from place to place for work, raise our children together. The same thing any man does with a wife.”
          “Grainne is a priestess of Avalon. The Lady of the Lake has plans for her. Marriage is not one of them. How will you overcome her objections?”
          “From what I’ve seen of Grainne, she follows her own will.”
          “Then I suggest you ask her and see what she has to say. But, for what it’s worth, you have my blessing.”
          “Are you her guardian?”
          “Male guardians mean little to a girl raised on Avalon.”
          “Well I thank you anyway, Merlin.”
          Grainne joined them with a bowl of stew for each. “Try this, Gwilym. You might like something without meat in it for a change.” She watched him as he ate spoonful after spoonful.
          After he had finished the bowl, he said to the landlord, “Excellent, sir. But I like your Thursday vegetable stew better than this Wednesday one.”
          Merlin and Grainne exchanged a glance. She asked Gwilym, “Are you not a carnivore?”
He replied, “I eat meat on special occasions and Sundays. I have no preference. Anything else you’d like to know about me?”
          She nodded to the boys, laughing while playing some game with their fingers on the board. “They seem to get along well. You’ve raised three fine sons.”
          “Thank you, Grainne. You’ve done well by yours also.”
          Her eyes shone then clouded over as she glanced at Merlin. “Gwilym…” she began but then stopped.
          “What?” he inquired.
          She wet her lips, started to speak several times but seemed to be incapable of forming the words. She sighed and said, “Never mind.”
          They had all finished their stew. “Will you walk with me, Grainne?” asked Gwilym.
          She got up and they walked through the marsh to the beach.
          “I was thrilled to see you in that clearing two days ago, Grainne. I had been thinking about you a lot.”
          She smiled at him and glanced down at his crotch. “I could tell that right away.”
          “No, Grainne. I mean that I was thinking about my feelings towards you and what future we might have together. I think I might…love you.”
          She stopped and looked hard at him. “That’s a strong word to use with a woman you’ve seen half a dozen times in your whole life. A woman you’ve had two complete conversations with. Are you sure you don’t just want to couple with me more often?”
          He looked down at his feet, then back into her eyes. “I’m not sure how I feel about you. There is that. But I want to know you more and I want to help you with our children. If they must leave Avalon, perhaps you could come with them and live with me. Our boys could all be together, I could see all five of my sons, you would have a protector and we could be man and wife. There are a lot of advantages.”
          “Advantages for you, maybe. But what’s the incentive for me? Waking up next to a boar like you every morning? Losing my place at Avalon? Following you around from shitty village to stinky town as you ply your trade? That’s not a life for me.”
          “Will you foster out Madoc? Is that why he came with you this time?”
          She bit her lips until they showed as two thin lines. “What I do with my son is no concern of yours.”
She smoothed out her dress and said, “I’ll see you on top of the tower tonight. We have work to do.” Then she left.
          Gwilym sat for another five minutes, and then walked back to the tavern. He picked up the box of jade and his hammer and wedges and walked up to the tower.
To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Christie and the Bridge

Politics in New Jersey is fun! Here we see reprisals where a governor's staff will close access to a bridge from a town that refuses to endorse him. If Christie was responsible, he should admit it and laugh. The state would mostly laugh with him and forgive him. What do we care about a few Fort Lee people whining about their George Washington bridge access when we have to line up for miles to get to it while they have three whole lanes to themselves right at the bridge. As far as I'm concerned they should make that pattern the normal flow from now on.

But during a Jan 9th news conference, Christie denied knowledge of the event vociferously for about two hours. As usual, it's a matter of the cover-up being worse than the crime. If it turns out he knew about it, he's a political corpse. Lie to the public and get caught, you're dead. Let's wait and see if the facts emerge that he lied or told the truth.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Jan 20, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I'm looking at the different organizational structures in the PMBOK and I'm having a hard time distinguishing between weak, strong and balanced matrix. They all look alike to me.

Stuck in the Matrix. Hartford, CT.

Dear stuck in the matrix,

They do look similar so let me highlight the differences for you. First you need to recognize the PMI's bias on this. That's important since they wrote the PMBOK and write the test questions pertaining to this topic. They believe that in the best possible world, every organization has a PMO, a Project Management Office staffed with fully trained Project Managers. Thus, in Matrix organizations, the best or strongest version has the PMs coming out of the PMO. Like this:
The other extreme, as far as the PMI is concerned, is when a person is in a functional department not called a PMO, like R&D or Marketing, and she doesn't even have the title of Project Manager. That they consider a Weak Matrix:
In between the two extremes is a balanced matrix structure where the person managing the project doesn't report to the PMO but at least has the title of Project Manager:
The PMI uses different terminology than I, referring to the level of authority and influence wielded by the Project Manager. But if you're trying to pass the PMP exam, my explanation might work better. 

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Great leadership from High School coach

Here's a high school coach who understands what his job is. It is not about winning games. It's about building the character of your players while they are under your care. This coach benched his entire team for a week because they were not acting maturely. They were cyber-bullying, skipping classes, being disrespectful. So they spent the entire week completing a checklist that included pulling weeds, visiting with the elderly, helping out their families and memorizing a poem about character. Those who completed every item on the checklist were rewarded with their jerseys back and the ability to play in the Homecoming game. Those who failed to complete the list, did not.

How did it work? All but nine of the 41 suspended players were eligible to play in the Homecoming game. They lost the game 21-41 to Emery but they gained a lesson in life that will be with them always.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Jan 13, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I am working at a client to help them implement their new owner's policies and procedures since they were acquired.  I am an individual contributor and not the PM.  They are following the new owner's PM philosophy of Critical Chain Project Management.  They have purchased a tool for MS Project from ProChain.  Have you heard of this approach?  I see some issues with it and am curious to see how this will play out.  But overall I really don't see any advantage to it over our practices.  Or am I missing something?  Here is a link to the demo:


Unchained in Wayne, NJ

Dear Unchained,

I've always loved the critical chain technique but have been unsuccessful implementing it since it requires serious senior management support. Looking at the video, I'd say your client has an excellent opportunity for gaining the value of this wonderful technique.

First of all, I LOVE the video! In 15 minutes they completely explain the technique, the software and the management support required. If you are unclear how the system works, watch it again.

If you need me to explain it to you, I'll try to do so in my words:

  1. All tasks have an uncertainty, so those committing to task deadlines include that buffer in that duration.
  2. Buffer taken is rarely given back so tasks rarely finish ahead of schedule.
  3. Critical chain project management consolidates all those individual task buffers and puts it under the control of the PM who gives it out and takes it back from task owners as needed.
  4. People work to priorities rather than deadlines. 
  5. All projects must be prioritized for this system to work.
  6. People must be allowed to finish tasks late if priorities demand it.
  7. Project management focuses on buffer management.
The software ProChain sells allows management to focus on buffer management within prioritized projects.

My advice is to embrace this technique and learn all you can while you have this rare opportunity. Then let me know how you liked it. 

Good luck.

PM Advisor. 

Send your questions to

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Seventy-seventh excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          Entering the tavern he found his twins sitting down with a board between them, eating the stew provided by the landlord. Gwilym took his bowl and spoon and squatted next to the boys. “Where’s Bleddyn?” he asked.
          “He went for a walk,” said Llawen. “He didn’t want his supper tonight.”
          Jac looked concerned. “I don’t like it when the family is not together for supper. Could you get him? We can wait.”
          Gwilym smiled. Jac always wanted the family to be together. When they walked in the woods, he always placed himself in the middle and looked back at the ones lagging. He either held up the ones in front or called for the laggards to speed up. During a rare argument, he was the one who sought compromise to stop the bickering. “Sometimes a boy of Bleddyn’s age needs to spend some time alone. I’ll go and get him after supper.”
          “Sorry I told about you marrying Miss Grainne, Da.” said Llawen. “I didn’t mean to but we were talking and it slipped out. Are you mad at me?”
          Gwilym tousled his son’s hair. “No son. It’s all right if the boys know. But it’s better if Grainne hears it first from me. What if she says no? Won’t that be a disappointment for you and the other boys?”
Jac’s eyes teared up. “Why would she say no, Da? And how do you make babies anyway if you’re not married already?”
          “That’s a quick question with a long answer, Jac. Can I save that one for when you are older? The important thing is that Madoc and Brice are my sons and Grainne’s. I’d like us to be together as a family. But Grainne needs to believe that also. She has to make the choice.”
          “I’d like that. Those two are fun. And everyone says Brice looks like me when I was one. So maybe he’ll be just like me. And I always wanted a younger brother. And Da?” He looked up with shining eyes “I do want a mother.”
          Gwilym’s heart broke. He took his son into his arms, almost upsetting the board, and let him cry on his shoulder. Llawen cleaned off the board and put it away so that Jac could crawl onto his father’s lap and let loose his tears. Gwilym just held him and stroked his back until he fell asleep out of exhaustion. It had been a long, emotional day for the boy. Gwilym took him to bed, and then read to Llawen until he too fell asleep. Then he set out to look for Bleddyn.
          He found him on the beach, looking out across the water. He moved to his son’s side and put an arm on his shoulder. “Thinking about your mother, son?”
          Bleddyn twisted out of his father’s grasped and looked at Gwilym with fury in his eyes. “A lot more than you were. Was Ma’s body even cold in the grave before you fucked Grainne? Or were you two lovers before she died? I saw her strip you when you were injured. I also saw her walking you around on the day Ma died. When did it start, Father?”
          Gwilym took his time to gather his thoughts before replying. “Almost a year later. My Kaitlyn, the love of my life was dead. It was Beltane. I was aroused. Grainne came to the top of the tower. She seduced me. I can’t blame her alone. I could have refused. But I was aroused and she was beautiful and it was Beltane and... We made love and then she disappeared. The next year she came again to the top of the Airmyn tower at Beltane. Grainne and I are part of some great spell being weaved across Britain. I don’t know the details but it involves Sir Kay, Merlin and perhaps even the high king. We are pawns in this game. Well, maybe not pawns, maybe knights, or bishops…”
          “Rooks,” interrupted Bleddyn and Gwilym smiled at the appropriateness of this image.
          “Yes. Rooks we are; castles. And the enchantment must be completed. Grainne says that there is one more tower after this one. The spell will be complete and we can live a normal life.”
          “She’s going to join you on the tower again tomorrow night, isn’t she?”
          “Da. You know this is wrong! You are a Christian and you are meddling with a spell. What would Father Drew say? What does the Bible say about meddling in witchcraft?”
          “Don’t be too quick to call witchcraft anything that is not Christian orthodoxy. There were a lot of similarities between the early Christians and the Druids. They worshipped together. It wasn’t until Rome came to this land that the religions clashed. Remember that the church started in Jerusalem, not Rome. And it came to Glastonbury before Rome brought its own version here. It was corrupted by Rome just like so many other things were.”
          “What does the Bible say about worshipping Ashtoreth poles? And would Jesus approve of you fucking some woman once a year during a pagan festival?”
          Gwilym hung his head. “I want more than that, Bleddyn. I want a woman with me every night. I want help to raise you boys with a woman’s compassion. I want a woman who can be my partner, who I can talk to about my day, about your boys growing up, about our futures. I want a woman to grow old with. That was supposed to be your mother but she’s gone now. I can never get her back.”
          Bleddyn was crying. “You can’t just replace her with the first woman that comes along, Da.”
          “She isn’t. I’ve been approached by many other women. But there is something special about Grainne. It’s not just this enchantment either. Or the sex. She protected you when I couldn’t. She has a spark about her that I’ve seen in no-one else since your mother. I think I love her.”
          “You think you love her? Like you loved Ma?”
          “It’s different. Nobody can replace your mother. My love for Kaitlyn will never diminish. But the feelings of emptiness I get are filled by Grainne.”
          “And Bleddyn, your brothers need a mother. You’ve seen them with their milk mothers and the women who watch over them in the villages we stay in. You’ve heard them ask for a mother. It’s different when you’re thirteen. You’re starting to feel like you can make it on your own. But remember what you felt like when she died. Jac and Llawen are only five. They need that love and tenderness and caring that I cannot provide.”
          Bleddyn searched his father’s face. He said nothing and walked back to their lodgings.  
To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Pakistani Hero

The grave of Aitzaz Hasan on Friday. Basit Gilani/European Pressphoto Agency

Heros come in all shapes and sizes but one constant remains. Will you give your life to save others? 

On Monday, a 15 year old boy on his way to school spotted someone wearing his school uniform but acting suspiciously. He confronted the man and tackled him when he tried to escape. The suicide bomber detonated his explosives, killing himself and Aitzaz Hasan. This selfless act saved the lives of scores of his fellow students. Read more about him in this article.

Now Pakistan is calling for this hero to be honored for his stand against Taliban extremism. I'll add my voice to the chorus.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Spain reneges on Solar Power guarantees

Spain was once one of the bright spots (pun intended) in the solar power generating world. Generous guarantees by the goverment brought it close to 20% reliance on renewable energy. Investors big and small poured money into solar power projects. Only one thing was missing: the money to pay for all this.

When the federal goverment guaranteed men like Justo Rodriguez that it would buy the electricity he generated at a fixed price for the next 25 years, he mortgaged two houses and his workshop to buy the equipment. He, in turn, guaranteed his banks that he would return the money they lent him.
Justo Cruz Rodríguez faces ruin after investing in solar power in the Spanish town of Águilas. Samuel Aranda for The New York Time
Abruptly, the Spanish govenment told him that they would not pay anywhere near as much for the power he generates and, to add insult to injury, wants to charge him for the power he generates and uses himself.

Countries must operate on a rule of law and gurantees made by the government cannot be withdrawn when people are investing based on those guarantees. This is just one more step into anarchy that the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) countries are falling into.

Read the details in this article.