Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Meet “So”, the new “Um”…

A few months ago I started noticing that on a number of the podcasts I listen to the word “So” began to get a lot more play. Specifically, people were using it as a lead into what they were going to say. It was different, not necessarily grammatically correct, but convenient and somewhat intriguing.

For example:

“I was making breakfast this morning, and …”


“So (long pause), this morning I was making breakfast and…”

Over the past month, it seems to have jumped to office speak as well. It has become impossible for me to get through a phone call or meeting without people using it right and left. Oddly, the world “like” has dropped out of site. I should say that I’m as guilty of this as anyone else and the more aware of it I become, the troublesome it is to me.
Of interesting note is that in yoga, “Soham” is a mantra, which means, “I am That”. When using the mantra, "So" is pronounced during inhalation and Ham during exhalation.

So, what’s the deal with "So"? Why has it invaded the business speak like a verbal bird flu? It does not seem to have yet achieved “ducks in a row” status as being a horribly overused phrase, but I do not think this is from lack of trying.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Consultant Walks into a Matrix Organization…

I’ve spent the last week trying to both catch up from being away in Sydney and also in reaching out to all the great people I got to meet over there. There will be more video in a few days and I’m hoping to post the next installment of the Art of War for Project Managers before the end of the weekend.

All I have today are ISTABOTs (Is There AnyBody Out There) Questions…

The Consultant Walks into a Matrix Organization…

I’ve been talking to a number of PMs in the past few weeks who are all dealing with the same problem…

Consultant walks into a matrix org reporting to Sr. Mgmt. Sr. Mgr. calls in his direct reports and says. “Meet the new PM on Vaguely Defined Project Y, which I will demonstrate steadfast halfhearted commitment to for the foreseeable future. While the PM is here working, I’ll trust that each of you will do you “best” to provide what you are asked for. In order to ensure the success of this project, I will not be removing any of your current responsibilities or providing you with any additional support. Naturally, there will be no penalty for non-compliance and your bonus structure will not be impacted by anything other than your successful work on everything but this project.”

This is the most you can get from Sr. Mgr and of course, the direct reports treat you like you are serving up warm helpings of skunked beer.

How do you fix this if the the level of support put forth by the Sr. Mgr. is the best you are going to get?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Pictures from the PMI 2008 Asia Pacific Leadership Meeting and Global Congress are posted here
PMI Asia Pacific Global Congress – Days 2 and 3

I’m back home in fabulous New Vegas (Oklahoma City). I keep denying any form of jet lag, but I also seem to be suffering from bouts of uncontrollable narcolepsy, where I drop off in mid sentence and pass out for a few minutes. Luckily, this hasn’t happened while driving … yet.

Being able to attend the Leadership and GC events is always a incredible learning experience and I am definitely of the camp that believes you learn as much, or more, in the halls talking to people, than you do in the sessions.

I did spend most of the 2nd and 3rd days in the booth, but I was able to break away to see our Asia Pacific Regional Director, SK Khor’s talk on Risk Management. The IT&T SIG is very fortunate to be graced with SK. He is a human networking machine and watching him work is both awesome and dizzying. Even better, however, is listening to him speak. SK’s presentation was not only informative; it was really funny as well – especially the firewall bit.

Mark, SK and I all got to meet a lot of great folks at our booth. For those of you who volunteered to help the SIG, rest assured, we’ll be calling. We are also going to try and work out a way to establish something local – either through webinars scheduled for an AP timezone, or some type of local user group.

This was my first time attending a PMI event in Asia Pacific. There is definitely something to be said for the non-US PMI events. They are more intimate and in a lot of ways, that makes it easier to develop relationships with the folks who attend.

My final thoughts, shout-outs and favorite moments:

  • Having the opportunity to sit with some folks and listen to stories about project managing software projects back in the day of punch-cards was one of my all time high moments. I will be steadily working on my bridge game and am looking forward to more stories for the podcast in Malta.

  • The Palm T3 (god rest its’ electronic soul) was the greatest PDA ever made.

  • David Goh and Tarnbir Kaur’s talk on cultural diversity was worth the entire trip for me. I am hoping to be able to interview Tarnbir very soon for some information specifically targeted at addressing very specific cultural project issues that often impact PMs and development teams in North America.

  • Iain, thank you for being such a good sport about the podcast. It will be posted very soon.

  • Michael Young, thanks for joining us late night for drinks and for offering to help out – we will be in touch very soon.

  • Rob Posener – It was great to be able to talk to you after so long.

  • Mrs. T – Thank you, as always, for the great advice. It is appreciated beyond words.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


In my posting on Monday I mentioned the talk on How to Become an Independent Consultant. While I did hear great things about it from the other members of the IT&T SIG who were present, I was on Booth Duty during the talk and was not able to attend. So, I have to offer my apologies to Jerry Ball, and Frank Walker and Frank Parth who were also on the panel, but whom I failed to mention in my posting.

Sorry about that gentlemen... it looks like I'll be buying a round in Malta.

Video Podcast Interview with Robyn Meredith from PMI Asia Pacific Global Congress in Sydney

Monday, March 03, 2008

Day 1 of PMI’s 2008 Asia Pacific Global Congress

Things got off to a great start Monday with a group of traditional Aborigine dancers entering the hall to the sounds of a didgeridoo, performing a dance to cleanse the energy in the hall for all the congress attendees. PMI President Greg Ballesteros gave an update on the phenomenal growth we are seeing in Project Management as it continues to enable companies all over the world improve their performance through the practice of our craft. PMI Chair Philip Diaz then welcomed the crowd and introduced Keynote Speaker Robyn Meredith. Ms. Meredith is an accomplished economic journalist who has written for a number of world-renowned publications including the New York Times and Forbes. She recently published a book that explores the rise to economic superpower status of China and India. As these two countries emerge, their evolution is having an unprecedented impact on the global economy. In her talk she compared and contrasted the two emerging giants and provided examples of how their drive to change their destiny is having a ripple effect that is undeniably impacting the entire world.

If you would like to learn more about Roby Meredith, or her book The Elephant and the Dragon, you can visit her website at http://elephantanddragon.com or pick it up via Amazon.com

After the keynote the sessions got underway. IT & T SIG Member and Troubled Project SIG Board Member, Alex Brown and Jennifer Tharp gave a talk on How to Become an Independent Consultant. Alex is a long-standing member of the IT & T SIG and his talks are always insightful and fun to watch.

With the first sessions complete the exhibition floor opened. Past Chair, Mark Lurch, Asia Pacific Regional Director, SK Khor and I all manned the booth and greeted the Congress Attendees. There was a great turnout and if you are attending Congress and haven’t stopped by booth 19 yet, please do so. Will be filming for our video podcast today and tomorrow and we’d love to talk to you.

Before the day ended we were very fortunate to get to spend some time with the Keynote Speaker, Robyn Meredith. She sat down with us for a video podcast, which should be posted within the next day or so, so please keep checking back for more details.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

PMI Asia Pac Leadership – Sydney, Australia (Day 2)

Day 2 started out with sessions for leaders of the components including a 3-part presentation on the framework being introduced for the Chapters. While the current version does not apply to SIGs and Colleges, it provided a good primer for some of the types of tools and metrics we will be expected to use to measure our maturity, organizational strengths and ability to add value.

One of the best sessions of the morning was a presentation by PMI Asia Pacific Service Center Manager, David Goh and Tarnbir Kaur on Cultural Diversity. The talk was based on research done by the two presenters and it offered details on the different dimensions used to assess cultural differences and the way they communicate. While the talk centered around Asian and Indian cultures, it offered those from outside those regions a wonderful opportunity to present specific issues/concerns in working with different cultures in order to get valuable feedback on how to be more effective in working with them. Being able to share issues with colleagues from across the globe and see how they approach different leadership situations is what the Leadership sessions are all about.

The PMI Board members were present at lunch on the second day and everyone attending had an opportunity to visit with them about everything from changes in our profession to the state of PMI. One interesting point of note was the topic of Skype, and how many of us are now using it as the preferred method of keeping in touch with the folks back home.

After lunch sessions included a working session on the PMI Code of Ethics and the types of issues we, as component leaders, face in dealing with our members and volunteers.

The day rounded out with an update on the Community Transformation Project and finally the Leader 2 Leader session in which attendees have the opportunity to address the Board of PMI directly with questions about things specific to running chapters, SIGs and Colleges.

Leadership ended with a reception in the Sydney Tower Sky Lounge, the second tallest building in the southern hemisphere. The Sydney Tower is the same height as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and it offered a great way to get a panoramic view of Sydney and the surrounding countryside.

Monday will bring the start of Global Congress and a keynote presentation by Robyn Meredith on her book The Elephant and the Dragon. If you are attending Global Congress, stop by the IT & Telecommunications SIG Booth (#19) and say Hi. If you are up for it, we’ll videotape you for our video podcast, which will be posted at the end of the day.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

PMI Asia Pac Leadership - Sydney, Australia 2008

We’re one day into PMI’s 2008 Asia Pacific Leadership Meeting and things are off to a great start. The meeting kicked off with an amazingly heartfelt talk given by Peter Bains talk called Leadership Matters. Bains works for the Sydney Police as a forensic specialist dealing in large-scale disasters and terrorist attacks. The talk centered on Bain’s involvement in the response to the Boxing Day Tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004. The talk was very moving and most of the audience was on the brink of tears as Bains described the challenges he and his team faced in doing DVI (Disaster Victim Identification) in the weeks after the attack. From a leadership standpoint, there were two things Bains brought up that were particularly poignant. The first was that he divided anyone’s involvement in a project into four stages. The first is the frenetic, adrenaline stage when people are highly motivated, just trying to figure out what is going on. They don’t need much to keep them going then because they have a lot of enthusiasm. The second stage has them move into a business as usual mindset. They’ve learned how things work, they aren’t the new guy anymore and they know their job. The third stage is where Bain’s focused. In the third stage, the energy level drops. The motivation is gone, routine has set in and there is a breakdown of enthusiasm. This, Bain’s argued, is where leadership is most critical. You need to keep people energized, focused and make sure, above all, that they have a clarity of purpose that is completely ingrained in their minds and hearts. This needs to continue through the fourth stage, exit, when everyone is just looking for a way out. Bains contended that real leadership is able to keep a team motivated beyond the sexy part, all the way through the day-to-day drudgery until you cross the finish line. He challenged all of us to make sure we had clarity of purpose that truly identified why we do what we do.

As they day moved on, the topics covered included an update on the state of al things IT at PMI, the status of things in the AP region itself and finally breakout sessions for the components. Things were run a bit differently than in meetings past and the exercises that the SIG’s and non AP Chapters went through allowed us a great opportunity to share information on topics like member retention, volunteer sourcing, finding new leaders for your organization, etc. It was a bit less volatile than what usually takes place back in the states, but it was very valuable.

After the day’s events there was a small networking reception and then most folks headed over to watch the Mardi Gras parade. Sydney’s annual Gay Pride Mardi Gras Parade is second in size and scope only to its New Year’s Eve celebration. The streets and parks were packed to the gills with folks either celebrating their lifestyle or just taking it all in. Sydney is known as one of the most accepting cities on the planet for those who live a gay/lesbian lifestyle and regardless of where you stand on the issue, it is a very amazing site and quite characteristic of the welcoming, laid back style of the Sydneysiders.
Today is day 2 of Leadership - more to follow.
Just one last interesting fact...

The hopping marsupial with a pouch that we all know and love as the kangaroo was named when the first English settlers in Australia asked the aborigines what that the name of the hopping animal was. The aborigines, not speaking English, kept responding with the phrase, which phonetically spells kangaroo. It actually means, “What do you mean?”