Monday, June 30, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Jun 30, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I’m documenting the introduction to our Project Profile for presentation to management. I’ve been advised not to use bullets for this document. Why not? I believe the white space makes it easier to read.

Format Queen in Morristown

Dear Format Queen,

Bullet statements are good for three purposes:

1.       Lists

2.       To present your resume in an easily readable format that highlights your experiences without causing anyone to push through paragraphs of words.

3.       To present your key points along with your wording as you present something.

A Project Profile, while it may be initially presented, ends up being a stand-alone document that anyone may pick up months or even years later to try and determine what this project is all about.

A stand-alone document cannot use bullets except for lists like deliverables, measures, etc. because bullets typically are not complete sentences and require more words to fully explain what you mean. Since you will not be there to add the needed words, you need to add them now, while you create the document.

Here is what I recommend you do to ensure you have a complete Project Profile:

1.       Write up the Profile with the aid of your team

2.       Print it out

3.       Hand a copy to each of your team members along with a pen

4.       Present your Profile to your team

5.       The team members will mark up your profile with the ad-lib comments you made during your presentation

6.       Type this new information into your edited Profile

7.       Repeat steps 2 – 6 until what you are presenting is exactly what is documented on the Profile

8.       At this point, your Profile is good enough to be that stand-alone document you want.

Good luck,

PM Advisor
Send your questions to

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Eighty-ninth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers"

          Gwilym stepped back and vomited in the bushes. By the time he returned to the knight, the blood was only oozing out of the neck and arm. Gwilym swung the sword one last time and severed the head from the torso. Then he lifted the helmet free from the gore and unbuckled the chin-strap, allowing the head to fall free. It dropped onto the forest floor, face first, and then rolled up. Gwilym was shocked! This wasn’t Palomides at all. It looked like one of his younger brothers, Segwarides or Safir. He hadn’t seen either since they were young boys.
         Gwilym thought about this for a moment. The knight had said “We,” so Palomides was not alone. Had he brought his brothers with him on this quest? Escalbor, their father, was dead. And he had sent them after him on a death-bed request. That meant that these brothers would stop at nothing to get the book.
         He had a pretty good idea why. His father had told him that their Quraysh clan worshipped one of the 360 idols that filled the Kaaba within the trading town of Mecca. This god, which they called El Ah, had similar characteristics to the creator god the Jews’ Yahweh and the Christians’ God. Escalbor wanted to take control of this trading town by promoting his god above the others. The Kaaba was a place of pilgrimage for all the superstitious Arabs who prayed to their individual idols before and after the dangerous trek though the desert on the spice road. Control of the Kaaba meant control of Mecca and control of the caravans passing through there.
         Escalbor wanted to use the book that Gwilym’s father had created about Jesus, along with a book he possessed that Willem believed was the original Gospel of Joseph, to show that El Ah was the only god amongst the idols worthy of worship. He would throw out the other idols and take control.
Escalbor had threatened Willem. Gwilym remembered arguing with his father about this. “Give him the book, Papa. You can always rewrite it.”
         But his father had been adamant. “The man is sick with power. We cannot give him any more. He wants to do evil things with any more power he gets. His ideas of law are sick and twisted. He will stop educating women, will buy and sell them as chattel, wrap them up in heavy robes and hide them from sight. He will set up harsh rules about drinking and adultery. He want to hold public stonings to terrorize people into obeying him. He’s mad! Right now he is held in check by the different clans who have more liberal beliefs. We cannot be the instrument to allow him to rise above them.”
         That was the last night Gwilym had spoken with his father. And now one of Escalbor’s sons was lying at Gwilym’s feet, half buried and beheaded by Gwilym’s hand. He felt sick to his stomach again but there was no more to retch. Gwilym dropped the sword, retrieved his scimitar and spade, and jogged off after the wagon tracks. He followed them, with difficulty, off the main deer path into the woods until he arrived at wagons.

         Where is my family? Oh, that’s right; hidden by Grainne’s spell. What was the secret word I gave her?          “Zamzam!” he cried. Why had I chosen this word in a moment of crisis?
       His children ran up to him from behind some trees. He knelt down and spread his arms to receive them. They stopped short and looked at him in horror. He looked down at himself and saw that his lower body was covered in the blood that had spurted from the knight’s wounds. “It’s all right. It’s not my blood. The knight is dead. We needn’t worry about him anymore.”
       They asked him all about the fight. He told them they would hear more later, when they had cleared this dangerous forest. As Grainne directed the horses back to the main path, he changed his soiled clothes. “Was it bad?” she asked.
       “It wasn’t dangerous. I had him at a disadvantage the whole time.” He told her all about the rope and the pit he had quickly dug with the spade.
       “Did you leave the body? There would have been gold coins on him.”

       “I’ve no wish for his blood money. Let the forest bandits have him. They’ll be blamed for his death that way.”

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

Friday, June 20, 2014

PMO Creation - Week 18

This is week 18 and we still haven't finished any of the projects we started with. I was shocked but the CEO was happy to see what he suspected being highlighted in black and white. He loves the process.

The number one project which we were awaiting our customer to approve was agreed to by them so it is a go but it turns out that this is really just the completion of one of the modules we have identified as a lower priority project. So we moved this project up to the number one slot and crossed out the customer name on the original project.

Now that the meetings are running smoothly, we decided to bring in one project per week for a project review. The first victim will be the project that has been threatening to end for the last ten weeks so we can see what is going on with it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Jun 16, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

We are documenting our assumptions as we plan but we’re concerned. A lot of the assumptions we are making won’t be proven true or false until we are halfway through the project. Management has challenged these and told us they won’t approve the project unless we have answers to all these questions.

What can we do?

Nervous in New York

Dear Nervous,

Project Planning is the process of predicting the future. But management typically wants our predictions to be 100% accurate while we are dealing mostly in hopes and dreams. We can never be 100% accurate in our predictions so we use past data to try and improve our predictions.

Along the way we need to make assumptions to continue planning. Since we don’t know which of two or more paths will prove to be correct, we assume the most likely path to be true, treat that as a fact and continue planning accordingly. This allows us to complete a project plan, along with all the assumptions that got us to that point.  It is extremely important that management buys off on all these assumptions when they approve the project plan. If they disagree with an assumption, they need to let us know. We’ll pick one of the other paths as true and adjust the plan accordingly.

Some of these assumptions will not be proven to be correct until the project is underway. That is a reality of life. Your management needs to accept this reality and move on. The only way you can determine the validity of this assumption is to proceed to the point where it will be proven. So they need to either allow you to proceed or, if they are too unsure about the project, they need to reject the project’s progress to the implementation phase.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Eighty-eighth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers"

       The horse’s head passed inches under the rope at full gallop. The rope caught the knight on top of his arms, then up to his neck where it lodged and swept him free while the horse continued. If he had not been armored, he would have lost his head. Instead, he was knocked off his horse and landed flat on his back, right at Gwilym’s feet.
       Gwilym stepped out from the bush looking for the place to lay his blow. The helmet protected his head and movable plates covered his neck to his breastplate. Similar movable plates covered his hips to the cuisse that covered his thighs. He had chain mail underneath that protected his knees and then his shins were covered by greaves. His shoulders and arms were protected in a similar manner. The armor was enameled with red and green in Arabic designs.
       He reached down to flip up the aventail that protected the neck so he could deal the killing blow. As he did so, the knight shook his head and made to rise. He muttered an Arabic curse that Gwilym remembered being taught as a child. Gwilym stepped behind the knight, hoping that the limited view through the visor had kept him invisible. He looked again for an opening in the armor. If the knight remained still, Gwilym could lift the protections of his neck and slice off his head but he was rolling onto his hands and knees now and preparing to rise.
       Gwilym hesitated for a second more, trying to expose his neck but, with the knight shaking his head to clear it and looking around for his enemy, he realized he needed to strike at some exposed flesh now while he had a chance. He saw that the knight’s buttocks were only covered in leather, the protective chain hauberk folded back and hooked onto his back-plate. He stepped closer and swung his scimitar, slicing through the leather and cloth and cutting deep into both buttocks.
       A piercing scream filled the air, startling the horse as the knight rolled away from Gwilym. Gwilym followed up his advantage and managed two swings at the backs of his knees. One of the blows drew blood. Then the knight rolled to the protection of the trees and, using them to help him rise, he stood up and faced Gwilym.
       “You’ve grown up, old friend,” he said. “But you still don’t recognize your betters. Give the book you stole from us. Father begged us to retrieve it on his deathbed. That is a request we cannot fail to fulfill.”
       “We?” thought Gwilym. Then he had to move as the knight stepped forward, drew his sword and swung at him. Being unarmored and less practiced in armored combat put Gwilym at a disadvantage. He was also wielding the wrong type of weapon to use on an armored knight. Fortunately, the knight was moving awkwardly, due to the deep cuts he had sustained.
       Gwilym stepped back, swinging his ineffectual weapon, staying out of reach of the knight’s sword. They moved off the path and into the trees where the knight’s swings were limited. Gwilym hesitated. He allowed the knight to close in, then turned around and ran into the woods. The knight shouted a curse and loped after him, dripping blood from both wounds. Gwilym jogged, glancing over his shoulder, keeping the heavily armored knight just behind him.
         The knight was infuriated and screamed at Gwilym, not noticing that Gwilym leapt a section of the leaf-strewn path rather than running over it. The knight stepped on the leaves and plunged through the sapling and leaf covered hole, sinking to his armpits in the narrowing pit. Gwilym returned and stomped hard on the knight’s sword arm. The knight grasped Gwilym’s foot with his other hand and strained to move him. His leverage was limited. Gwilym kept his position. Gwilym worked the tip of his scimitar between the bands of plate that covered his gauntlets, then thrust his weight down onto it to almost sever the hand from the body. The knight screamed again, letting go of Gwilym’s foot and his own sword. Gwilym picked up the blood covered sword and stepped away.
       The knight was screaming in pain, anger and frustration. He was trying to staunch the blood flow from one hand with the gauntlets of the other. Gwilym examined the sword. This heavy bladed weapon was perfect for fighting an armored man. He dropped his scimitar and approached the knight. He was wriggling out of the hole using his good hand and his other elbow. He had worked his chest free and was pushing with his feet against the lower walls.
       Gwilym stepped forward and slashed again at his exposed buttocks. This time he enlarged the gash and felt the sword snap bone. The knight slipped back in to the hole. He tried to reach behind him but Gwilym was a full arm and sword-length away. This time Gwilym swung full force at the armor protecting the knight’s neck. The knight was not wearing the gorget that protected many an armored man’s neck. He had, instead, iron bands that hung from the helmet for protection. They didn’t do much to protect from the heavy swing that Gwilym made.
       The iron bands bent and broke as the sword swung through the back half of the knight’s neck, exposing the spine. Gwilym stopped the swing and, reversing his feet, swung back at the neck from the other side. The knight’s head fell forwards. Blood gushed onto him from the slash. Gwilym’s third blow was deeper and the sword severed the throat. The head was held to the body by only the skin on the front of his neck.

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

Friday, June 13, 2014

PMO Creation - Week 17

This week we encountered a problem within the interdependencies of one group of projects. Many projects were modules within a large platform. One of these projects was the foundation for this platform. Other modules relied on each other or were run more efficiently together. We decided to group them accordingly, place one project manager on top of this program and the other in charge of the next five projects outside this program. 
Looking at it this way allowed us to make more sensible decisions as to  the priority of these modules. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Leadership in education

For the last 50 years Edouard Plummer has run an academic boot camp for promising black and latino school-children and got more than 500 of them into the swanky prep-schools that assure their future. Throughout this time he reminds his charges that they are achievers, not charity cases.

His one year boot camp prepares the scholars for academics and includes etiquette, trips to the theater and other events. Read more in this article.

"You are as good as anyone else, or better," he told his first group. "There will be people who don't want you there. But you have to go. You are the Jackie Robinsons of education. If you do what he did, you can open the doors to those who follow behind you."

Friday, June 6, 2014

PMO Creation - Week 16

This week we were able to pull together a consolidated schedule for all the IT development projects and could take a first look at the resource loading. It didn't look too bad because we had linked the tasks in such a way that resources would not be overloaded. Of course, this meant that some projects were scheduled to finish later than we had hoped but, since they were lower priority projects, that's the right thing.

Next week we'll start looking at status reporting on projects.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Dear PM Advisor. Jun 2, 2014

Dear PM Advisor,

I wrote my Project Objective Statement to include the words: “Final product must cost < $2 per pound.” I was told by one of my team members that this was not the correct cost to put in the Objective. My response was that this was extremely important and should be reflected in the headlines of the project: The Objective Statement which appears on every project document.

Who is right?
Concerned in Connecticut

Dear Concerned,

From your question I imply that the ONLY cost you show in your Objective is this cost per pound of your final product. While that is indeed an important measure of the success of your project, management still needs to know how much your project will cost to complete in order to determine whether or not to do your project. If it costs $10 million to complete and brings in revenues of only $1 million a year, it doesn’t matter if you can make the product for $1 a pound, the project will never pay for itself.

You are correct that this important measure needs to be elevated to the Project Objective and appear in the ‘headlines’ of the project. It is OK to have two cost values in your Objective. So your Objective should read somewhere along these lines:

To develop the XYZ product, produce it reliably for < $2 per pound and market it by Dec 21, 2015 for a cost not to exceed $250,000.

Now you have the three elements of a good Project Objective: Cost, Schedule and Performance, along with the most important measure.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

Send your questions to

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Eighty-seventh excerpt from 'Twelve Towers"

          Gwilym ran along the road to the deer path and saw nothing. Bleddyn had hidden the cart by the time he arrived. He caught up with the boys and asked them if they had seen anything. “Just a man riding by on a horse,” answered Madoc.
         Damn! Grainne joined them and they rode off through the woods as fast as they could. The adults discussed the possibilities as they rode.
         “Chances are he’ll mention it at the crossroads,” muttered Gwilym.
         “Should we expect someone to attack us from behind?” asked Grainne.
         “Yes. Can you cast that spell again; where we look like a big tree?”
         “I can’t make it big enough to hide the carts.”
         “How far north of the main road are we?”
         “About three and a half miles,” she responded.
         Gwilym smiled and shook his head in amazement. He didn’t ask how she knew. He figured it came from years of living in the woods. Similar to how he knew where he was in the Jerusalem medina. He started to calculate. The cleric’s horse would reach the cross-roads in about 15 minutes at the earliest. If he didn’t mention the cart, they were safe. But if he did, the knight stationed there would saddle up and would be on the deer path in about 45 minutes. If they continued at this pace, he would find them down this path about half an hour later. So he had a little over an hour to prepare. Less if they stopped moving.
         “Grainne. I want you to take the next likely path deeper into the woods and hide the carts. Disguise the tracks. Then move away from the carts and cast that oak spell again. I’m going to try to take out Palomides.”
         “A mounted knight? With a scimitar? Wearing no armor? He’ll murder you!”
         “I have the advantage of surprise and agility. And with this rope,” he hefted a long coil of rope from the wagon behind him, “He won’t be mounted for long. Don’t come out until you hear me say this secret word.”          He whispered something in her ear which made her smile.
         As he took up a spade she grasped his arm and pulled him close. “Blessings of the goddess be upon you, Gwilym.” She kissed him hard and released her grip. 
        Gwilym looked up and down the deer path and decided to follow the cart for a little until the path made a sharp turn to the north. There, the trees overhead were dense, leaving the path in shadow. Here he set his first trap. He thought hard about the armor he had seen Palomides wearing when he last saw him outside Huish. The armor was plate mail and his scimitar would bounce off it from the front. But if he could get behind the man, there was access to the backs of his knees and the small of his back. His buttocks were not covered with armor when he was on horseback. This might work, he thought.
        It took him almost an hour to set his second trap deeper in the forest, along a narrow track. He returned and hid himself next to the first trap he had laid on the main path. He was sweating from his exertions and he had to concentrate to slow his breathing and listen for the approach. After five minutes he was cooled down and breathing easy. He waited another twenty minutes, crouched uncomfortably in his hiding place. He started to second-guess his preparations, wishing he had known that he had this extra time to make his second trap bigger and deeper. Should I risk taking some more time on it? No! This is where I’ve made mistakes in the past. Better to stick with the original plan.

        Hoof-beats! Racing along the path from the east! Gwilym wiped the sweat from his palms one last time and tightened his grip on his scimitar. He didn’t see the knight until the last second, when he raced from the sun-drenched path around the curve into the darkness of the overgrown narrows. The knight didn’t hesitate. He relied on his horse to follow the path but even the horse didn’t see the rope.

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